SUCH is the appeal of new-look Northern Stage's productions for younger ones that every ticket sold out days before Friday's launch.

With a lot to live up to, Susan Muholland's debut script adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's story does fit neatly into the role of small wonder.

A shed-like revolving centrepiece provides the backdrop for Thumbelina's (Karen Traynor in glorious gush) adventures. Mark Calvert works his costumed socks off as Mr Toad/Mole/Prince with his first two appearances - rap singing reptile and short-sighted gink - both comically unsuitable suitors for the 4.5cms tall heroine.

Brendan Murphy adds the musical story-telling Swallow desperate to manage a tale without falling asleep. Emily Grant adds the madcap Mrs Toad and a bossy Fieldmouse in an hour-long romp which gently guides the youngsters towards audience participation.

When most onlookers are six and under, plus a production which caters for disabled children, the use of lights, bottom jokes and Thumbelina in danger from giant leaves and snowflakes nicely holds the audience's attention.

There is one hint of sadness with the news that Northern Stage's Ensemble acting company is about to disband. If so, a little really has gone a long way in terms of stage ability.

Ring 0191-230-5151 or go to for news of ticket returns. Thumbelina runs until January 6.