IT’S that most wonderful time of the year and it can mean only one thing. Yep It’s Panto time!

This year’s offering at the Princess Theatre, is Aladdin, a timeless classic where a loveable street urchin falls in love with a princess before stumbling upon a magic oil lamp unleashing a powerful genie to help defeat an evil sorcerer from overthrowing the kingdom.

Now my usual visit is on Christmas Eve, so I was unsure how it would feel to be going so early, but I certainly was not disappointed!

Although the pantomime ‘loosely’ follows the plot line, there is plenty of artistic licence to ensure that this show is entertaining for the whole family with plenty of songs, dancing and jokes that even your granny would laugh at.

The stage presentation is second to none, taking you on a magical ride, with colourful costumes and backdrops supported by an excellent musical score where we meet many colourful characters along our journey, none more so than the eccentric and hilarious Washee family with Widow Twankey and her wildly exotic costumes, played by Phil Randall, and Torquay favourite Carl Johns as Wishee Washee.

Carl really is the star of the show as he is the glue that binds, appearing constantly throughout the show to offer quips, silly dancing and a Boris Johnson impression not to be missed!

All your favourite Panto segments are there, although my least favourite with the Ghost – who I think actually looks more like a Mummy – I will leave you to decide, gradually scaring off the characters one by one, now seems thankfully a lot quicker, but the 12 days of Christmas - well it never fails to bring in the laughs although I was stopped from bringing in my own toilet rolls to throw so be warned!

The show has been hit with some awful bad luck at the start of its run – with sickness and injury, even last minute on the night, with Ashley Johnson, dance choreographer and original Genie of the Lamp, stepping into the role of Aladdin and Molly Mae Rogers who plays So Shi, also taking the role of the Genie of the Lamp.

Both performed admirably and Ashley was only ‘found out’ as not the original Aladdin when he jumped aboard the magic carpet and a VT ran of the ‘original’ Aladdin, Jay Edwards, flying on his way to the final confrontation with Jafar, actually offering some light entertainment and bringing more than a few laughs but I’m sure more respect for Ashley’s performance.

The cast have also had to deal with the terribly sad news of the original Empress, Ruth Madoc’s tragic passing. Katherine Mount has now taken the role and delivered a confident and fitting performance, made all the more impressive with the circumstances.

Ricky Norwood, of Eastenders fame, who is playing Genie, acknowledged an emotional and fitting tribute on behalf of the cast. His final words ‘Ruth would have wanted the Show to go on’, gave a real sense of what this Panto is all about – unity, friendship and hope. The cast showed this in the bucketloads.

An entertaining night was had by all judging by the smiling faces leaving the theatre and as the snow started to fall in Torquay on the way home, you couldn’t help feeling that Christmas now has truly started.

Make sure you catch Aladdin at The Princess Theatre until December 31st.