I always think Christmas starts for me with a visit to the panto, and what a Christmas cracker this one is at Leeds City Varieties. A hugely talented cast, fabulous set design and 110 per cent enthusiasm from all the performers makes this one of the best family pantos for the public of Leeds and West Yorkshire.

The show has all the traditions associated with pantomime – the costumes, the gags, the men dressed as women – but this really is panto with a difference. The music is a huge part of the show and really gets the whole audience rocking in the aisles - regardless of age. If they are not personally singing or acting at the time, each of the actors plays an instrument as part of the band and every one of the twenty numbers in the show is a sing-a-long classic.

There is only a cast of ten – no dancers, no chorus, but this in no way detracts. In fact, at the City Varieties the stage size is very limited and where I have seen groups trying to put on productions with a chorus the stage has always appeared overcrowded. And this leads me on nicely to the terrific set design by Judith Croft. Judith has slightly extended the stage and put in balcony area above the main stage and this has made the world of difference.

The usual characters are in this production, Cinderella, Prince Charming, Baron Hardup, Dandini, Buttons, The Fairy Godmother, Rubella de Zees and the two Ugly Sisters – Verruca and Hernia. From these it is very difficult to single out any individuals for specific praise as they all collectively play such a major part in the production but there are a number of accolades I must make.

Firstly, Kenny Davies from Leeds as Buttons. This is Kenny’s eighth successive pantomime at the City Varieties and each year he gets better and better with his humour and was perfect for this particular part with his slapstick comedy. He performed well in his two solo numbers of Just My Imagination and Tears of a Clown. From a singing point of view, I was also highly impressed by Grace Lancaster from York as Cinderella whose renditions of Walking In The Rain and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow were excellent. Alex Wingfield was also excellent as Prince Charming with his solo of I Want You Back and combined well with Tom Connor as Dandini in Reet Petite and Have You Seen Her? Tom, another local boy from West Yorkshire, has an excellent voice and performed superbly in his solo numbers of Three Steps to Heaven and Shake A Tailfeather. Another performer with an excellent voice was Rachel Nottingham as The Fairy Godmother with her solo numbers of Rock Around The Clock, Downtown, Midnight Hour and Try A Little Tenderness.

Comedy was to the forefront in this production with a particularly impressive performance by Dyfrig Morris as Baron Hardup. Also providing the humour were Scott Haining and Matthew Hinchcliffe as Verruca and Hernia, the two Ugly Sisters. And any Panto worth its salt has to have the inevitable baddie! Katia Sartini as Rubella typified the archetypal baddie who was booed at every occasion possible. And this all added to the overall spectacle of the show.

Matt Aston the director kept the show moving at a good pace and the overall musical direction was by Greg Palmer. Whilst this was very much a Panto for the kids, there were enough innuendos and double-entendres sprinkled into the script to keep the adults highly amused as well. And whilst hardly any of the jokes were new, they were delivered with such good timing by the cast that it didn’t really matter that they had possibly been used on the City Varieties stage by Max Miller over 80 years ago.

This was a great night out and the public of Leeds and West Yorkshire have another month in which to catch this brilliant production as it runs until Sunday 13 January. To book go on line to www.cityvarieties.co.uk or ring 01132430808. Don’t miss it!

by John Burland