THE foyer was buzzing with excitement before we went in to watch this fun filled family pantomime, the mood heightened by a small army of enthusiastic children, eager to enjoy their festive treat.
And yes, both they and the big kids weren't disappointed, as this perfectly paced production, with its perfect comedy timing, left everyone feeling well and truly entertained.
That's praise indeed from yours truly, who, when it comes to pantos, is usually less than enthusiastic. For me, this is the best panto I've seen at this theatre, with everything falling perfectly into place.
Who can resist the tale of an underdog, as our hero Dick Whittington (a suitably likeable Meg Royle) travelling a long and difficult road determined to achieve his dreams and get his girl.
This theatre has a youth group. However, it must have been a great learning curve, particularly forthe younger actors, to work with Phil Edwards, who plays the show's larger than life Dame, Sarah the Cook. A seasoned panto performer, Phil really makes the role his own, winning everybody over and swanning around the stage in frocks as loud as the children's boos, hisses and singing.
He's ably assisted by his hapless and hopeless son Idle Jack, a Christmas present of a role for Peter Brassington.
If I have a minor quibble I thought the cast were more comfortable acting than they were singing, but that in no way diminishes the enjoyment of the audience who were very appreciative when Isaw the show.
Writer/director Alan Clements shows its perfectly possible to wear with distinction "two hats," which should be paper and coloured at this time of year. If you want to escape the repeats on Christmas TV or just fancy a good night out, Dick Whittington and his Wonderful Cat is for you.
* Until January 2. The box office is on 0161 928 1677. Star rating - ****