IT'S that festive time of year again when theatres up and down the country play host to the great British tradition of pantomimes.
This year, the Theatre Royal Windsor is staging the panto classic Jack and the Beanstalk.
The show really is full to the rafters with big names this year, including Stars In Their Eyes host Matthew Kelly, Bond girl Britt Ekland, panto legend Anita Harris and featuring the booming voice of Michael Crawford as the Giant.
Steven Blakely, the show’s director and writer said: "What we try to do here in Windsor is create a traditional panto and follow the usual panto rules with a few twists and turns here and there.
"It’s going to be full of magic. There’s the Giant, the beanstalk, and we’ve always got the character of Fairy to come and wave her magic wand, so there’s some magical surprises along the way."
Panto veteran Anita Harris, who has starred as Jack herself before, said this is her first time playing the role of Fairy.
"I don’t know if I’m going to be a lairy fairy or a dairy fairy yet!" she said with a chuckle. But one thing she is sure of is that the cast are all going to get along splendidly.
"Pantomime is very much like team-work and I think we’re going to be very happy this year."
In contrast to Anita, this is Olivia Scott-Taylor’s first time in a panto, and said it is worlds away from her role as Olivia Adams on Wild at Heart.
"It will be nice to try something that’s a bit lighter," she said. "I haven’t played a girlie role yet, so it should be fun.
"I love my costume because girls don’t get to wear big proper dresses. It’s a proper ball gown with a corset," she said beaming.
As the princess, Olivia will be rescued by Anthony Kavanagh in the hero role of Jack.
Although maybe he is not as brave as his character, as when asked if he had a head for heights to climb up the beanstalk, he laughed and said: "I’ve got no choice!"
Kevin Cruise, the flamboyant entertainer who sashayed his way into the spotlight in 2010 on Britain’s Got Talent, will also be returning to the panto at Windsor for the third year running.
He is playing the role of Simple Simon, Jack’s twin brother, who helps the hero try to stop the Giant.
"Even though he’s cast as simple, I like to think of him as being the cleverest character in the cast. You’ll have to see the panto to see why," Kevin said with a wink.
Though he says he has fallen out of touch with Simon Cowell since the show, the ITV producers often come along to see him in panto and are very supportive.
Kevin added: "There’s some shows now that do all this 3D stuff, but we’re going back basics, back to the jokes and telling the story. It’s going to be a cracking panto."
Jack and the Beanstalk will be at the Theatre Royal Windsor from December 5 - January 6. Tickets are £21.50 with concession prices available. Call the box office on 01753 853 888, or visit www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk for more information.