Sleeping Beauty/Swan Theatre, Worcester

IF Strictly judge Craig Revill Horwood could see this Christmas cracker of a show his verdict would undoubtedly be just one word, four syllables... pant-ab-ulous!

Yes, Chris Jaeger’s annual festive gift to the people of Worcestershire once again hits the spot with all the punch of one of drummer Neil Bullock’s snare drum shots, and all driven along by a script that’s exploding with gags, one-liners and packed with more corn than a grain silo.

We’re in the zany zone right from the start, with Good Fairy Azuriel (Genevieve Lowe) squeaking and squawking with such righteousness that you just know that the baddie’s about to make her entrance soon.

And we’re not disappointed, because Liz Grand’s Carabosse is simply glorious, rigged out like one of those deep sea creatures we’ve been watching on Blue Planet… a hideously horned monstrosity with all the charm of a moray eel that hasn’t eaten a crab recently.

Thankfully, plenty of light relief is provided by the obligatory idiot, in this case West End star Oliver Brooks as the aptly-named Silly Billy.

Meanwhile, Victoria Lucie as Princess Aurora flits and flutters about the stage with all the required demure butter-wouldn’t-melt, her hair looking for all the world like it’s been styled by the toy company which supplied a generation of little girls with My Little Pony.

Tom Riddell is her beau, the heroically named Prince Valiant, a desperately handsome fellow who provides the perfect counterpoint to the aforementioned Blue Planet creature… and what Swan panto would be complete without the presence of Rob Leetham (King Edward) who transforms bumbledom into an art form?

But the icing on this Christmas cake is undoubtedly provided by Helen Leek’s inspired choreography, Rick Godsall’s musical direction and the breathtaking talent of Ben Humphrey as Dame Ginny.

Humphrey’s endless capacity for adlibbing brings a sense of immediacy to the proceedings which places this panto up there with the very best the provinces can offer.

Worcester Repertory Company’s production of Sleeping Beauty runs until Sunday, January 7 and is definitely one for your diary.

John Phillpott