Theatre Royal Winchester’s Beauty And The Beast deserves credit for coming up with a production that manages to tell the romantic tale while incorporating all the traditional panto elements.

Some Panto tales are pretty minimal and stretched thin across the singing, dancing and old jokes. With Beauty And The Beast, it’s quite the opposite: there’s so much story, there’s a danger it won't leave room for the reasons that we love panto.

Thankfully we were treated to some very nice dancing, a pantomime dame splendidly played by Theatre Royal regular Julian Eardley, fairies good and wicked, much booing, a pantomime horse, a singalong and an excellent slosh scene.

The credit must go to James Barry who directs and has written a tight, funny script. There are clever rhymes and much physical humour including one of the best passing wind jokes I’ve seen. It blew me away.

One premium feature of Theatre Royal pantos is the songs by Simon Slater. Once again he has provided a quality far above the usual panto fare. The chorus of 'We are the people of the town' is an earworm that once heard is hard to get out of your head.

Two characters stand out. The narcissistic Bouffant with his big muscles and small brain is an unwanted suitor to Beauty. It’s a stand out performance from Khristopher Milnes who had the audience in stitches. And there's a Silly Billy-style character called Wally played by Ed Thorpe who is physically funny and has a great rapport with the audience.

The cast may not be celebrities but they are top quality performers.  Alice Bonafacio is a quirky Good Fairy and Sarah Annakin a commanding Evil Fairy. Eleanor Bennett plays Beauty, Tim Faulkner her father and Nathan Turner the Beast in an impressively frightening costume.

My only reservations were that some of the fun was overdone to the point where it stopped being funny. 'Oh yes it is... oh no it isn't' was repeated until the audience could barely be bothered to join in and there was so much water sprayed over those of us in the front stalls that I felt I was in a Splash Zone.

But these are minor points. Theatre Royal's Beauty And The Beast is a Christmas cracker.

Beauty And The Beast runs at Theatre Royal Winchester until 6 January 2019.

A shorter version of this review appeared in the print edition of the Daily Echo.

Paul Seven Lewis presents the YouTube channel One Minute Theatre Reviews.