Newcastle Theatre Royal

OH, THE weather outside might be frightful, but inside the palace of fun it's never been warmer. Indeed, if the laughter measurement had been taken it would have been well off the Richter Scale as the Theatre Royal Panto team continue to go from strength to strength.

'Newcomer' Joe McElderry (Jiminy Cricket) has become an integral part of this feast of joy and his partnership with the brilliant Danny Adams has taken the team to new levels. We all know Joe has a great voice, but his authoritative command of the stage, comedy timing and movement are exemplary, too.

Of course the team wouldn't be the same without stalwarts Clive Webb and Mick Potts who add their own zaniness to the occasion: Mick pretending to be a shark, skateboarded across stage with a makeshift fin on his back, while Clive, despite being in his 70s, seems to get more energetic as the years pass, especially in the custard pie scene.

The Northern Echo: Pinocchio went down a storm for the Waugh family

The plot at the Newcastle Theatre Royal panto is usually tenuous, to say the least, but this year there's a strong storyline as Pinocchio (Danny Adams) – who was created by his woodworker father (Clive Adams) – is kidnapped by the evil baddie The Great Stromboli (Wayne Smith). Boooooo!

Assisted by his wicked sidekicks Kyle Ann Ford and Christina Berriman Dawdson, Stromboli lures Pinocchio away to exploit him as a travelling show exhibit.

Aided by Dame Rita Rigatoni (Chris Hayward) and the Blue Faerie (Amelia Walker), Pinocchio's story is that of good against evil.

The Northern Echo: Pinocchio went down a storm for the Waugh family

Okay, that's the plotline, but it's the two hours of mayhem getting us from A to B that makes this an absolute joy. Custard pie fights, a car that hovers over the crowd, hilarious audience participation, dancing, singing and sumptuous costumes are all part and parcel of this panto tour de force. Dame Rita Rigatoni singing Geordie Girl to the tune of Barbie Girl with a chorus of Toon Army will live long in the memory, as will the fire extravaganza by the duo Spark Fire Dance.

Then we have that force of nature, Danny Adams, who sings, dances, rides around on a mono-cycle and juggles... but who, most importantly, has funny bones. Surely there must be some sort of award due in recognition to his services to Geordie entertainment.

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There was lots of talk at half time and at the end as to whether this was the best panto to date. Many said yes. Personally, I couldn't say as I love them all. As usual, there's never a dull moment, with the fun continuing from the moment Danny and Clive appear on stage until the curtain drops after the finale.

The Northern Echo: Pinocchio went down a storm for the Waugh family

Perhaps Willow, 12, and Everly, 7, should have the last words. I asked them to give me a mark out of 5. Willow said 15 and Everly came back with 150. 'Nuff said.

Pinocchio is at Newcastle Theatre Royal until Sunday, January 14. To book visit or call the box office on 0191-232-7010

Ed Waugh