REVIEW: Aladdin, Kings Theatre, Southsea, until January 4.

Once again, the Kings hits the ground running as the panto to beat this Christmas.

Hardly surprising really when you consider what a magnificent head start the venue alone gives it.

You sit there in awe really. Beautifully restored, it is just such a beautiful auditorium... and clearly inspirational. Year after year, Kings panto casts rise to the occasion and the location. The Pompey audiences, always up for fun, do the rest.

In truth Aladdin isn’t ever going to be the greatest pantomime. The story is weaker and less clear than the other big guns of the panto repertoire.

But if you don’t mind losing track of just who’s got the magic lamp and why and just go with the flow instead, a great night is to be had once again at the Kings this Christmas.

Maybe the most enjoyable aspect this year is that this really is an ensemble effort, everyone working together brilliantly for a panto which is running remarkably smoothly for a show so early in its run.

Antony Costa, of multi-million-selling band BLUE, is endearingly geezer-ish as Aladdin while Gosport-born Marcus Patrick, formerly of Hollyoaks, hams it up to great effect as the Genie of the Ring.

You just know that every panto the length and breadth of the country will have a Frozen moment this Christmas; X Factor’s Kitty Brucknell, as Princess Yasmin, Lets It Go in Portsmouth in style.

Elsewhere, Portsmouth’s unusual bit of double-daming works surprisingly well, with Phil Randall as Widow Twankey and Christopher Marlowe as the Empress of China combining perfectly, experts both in their business and colourfully delivering the fruits of all their years of experience.

Jade Ellis, also from X Factor, is great value as the Genie of the Lamp; Jack Edwards heaps up the villainy to good comic effect as Abanazar; and it’s great to see Aiden J Harvey back at the Kings again in the Buttons’ role, Wishee Washee. Harvey keeps it all going with seasoned stage presence and endless good humour.

A thoroughly-enjoyable night then, and even if the story is a little lacking, if you don’t feel festive by the end of it, then you probably never will.

Phil Hewitt