I HAVE lost count of the number of times I have seen this stage musical.

I recall the late, great Phil Young of Scouseology fame singing its praises to me back in 1993.

He loved what he called a 'sparkling new show at the Empire' by writer producer, director, composer and lyricist - Anne Dalton.

This much-loved local tale of faith, hope and charity is now celebrating 25 years of success.

Phil is mentioned with affection in the excellent programme notes which also thanks the people who have helped the show along the way.

Johnny Kennedy, a great tenor who has starred in the show before, was in the audience for this current lively interpretation.

Each new take on it stamps its own mark on a touching fictional story of love, loss and loyalty.

This 2018 version has exceptional choreographed sequences led by Nazene Danielle - herself a Her Benny veteran.

And on press night I saw two upcoming shining stars in Nell (Evie Kaufman) and Louie Gray as Benny.

They are part of the three rotating teams of talented youngsters.

Like the popular stage shows the biographical Twopence to Cross the Mersey and the musical Oliver!, dramas about poverty always strike a chord here on Merseyside.

Her Benny is adapted from the well-researched novel of social inequality and injustice that still resonates, written by Cornish author Silas K. Hocking in 1879.

He was a Methodist minister and preacher who worked in a dockland chapel in Liverpool and saw first hand the struggles of the working class urchins.

This was his second novel and it sold a million copies.

He went on to write 100 books, but this is the one that has tugged at the consciences and the heart-strings ever since.

It is as popular in book form now as when it was first written.

It was also made into a silent film in 1920.

More than 800,000 people have seen the theatrical show thanks to Anne Dalton's ABD company.

It tells of Nell and her brother Benny – they are nine and eight-year-old waifs - whose mum has died.

They run away from an abusive dad who made them beg for his drink money.

A friendly night watch man called Joe Wragg and his wife Sally, welcome them into their humble abode.

It's not without its melancholy, as Benny becomes a survivor inspired by his seriously-ill sister.

The songs in this two-hour-40-minute production reflect many the emotions from inner strength in As Long As I Believe to poignancy in Pictures in the Firelight.

Funny How Things Turn Out is an optimistic and jaunty number.

I enjoyed the '60s pop feel of Time the Healer from older Eva, played by Molly Cranmer and the joyful, playful Eastham Ferry.

Janet Cowley, who has worked with various companies including Opera North, is pitch prefect as homely Sally Wragg.

And Royal Court stalwart Lindzi Germain plays various roles in her own inimitable way.

Sniffer (Georgia Chadwick) has a habit of continually wiping her nose - a running gag throughout.

The character is always a hit with audiences.

The Royal Court's Kevin Fearon said the theatre didn't usually do family shows but this was a great opportunity for regulars to bring their children and grandchildren and introduce them to it.

He said: "We can't wait to see all those happy faces" and wasn't disappointed on its Royal Court debut.

Here's to the next 25 years.

Heart-warming and endearing - Four stars

The show's run ends on February 10

Tickets from the box office on 0151 709 4321