WELCOME back to the re-opened Epstein Theatre and the returning panto - always a much-loved part of Liverpool's festive period.

And in true panto thigh-slapping tradition the show did go on for Beauty and the Beast with understudies taking to the stage with flying colours.

It was announced that Hollyoaks star Ben Richards, who was to play Gaston,P was sadly out with Covid.

It was also a no-show on press night for Kelley Sweeney as Fairy Rose.

Instead a round of applause to Tom Fothergill who bravely became Gaston and Nazene Langfield literarly stepping in from the wings as Fairy - she is also the show's choroegrapher.

This was certainly a celebration of pure teamwork.

It's a lively cast with panto powerhouse Lewis Devine as French Frank at the helm.

It is a re-booting of the Beauty and Beast tale. Here Madame Botox is keen for her vain son Gaston to marry Belle (Lauren McCrory).

Wirral Globe:

Production shot from  'Beauty and the Beast'

Beastly Botox comes up with a poisonous plan to get Prince (Benjamin Keith) to turn into the Beast thus thwarting any chance of love interest. But true romance wins even in raucous pantos.

James Lacey is superbly confident as Botox and Jamie Greer's Potty Polly have a battle of the frocks, but Madame wins with some sparkling numbers.

Songs are a wide mix from Paul McCartney's Frog Chorus to The Eurythmics and soundtrack from the film Footloose.

Devine shines throughout espeicially in a kiss the frog-on-a-wall sketch which has plenty of breaking wind references to keep the kids happy.

Meanwhile the adults can understand the risque gaqs. Highlights include 'there's-a-ghostie-behind-you' sketch and a rather chaotic 12 days of Christmas routine.

Wirral Globe:

One scene involving Frank and Jamie (the latter in a bee costume) has potential but buzzes out - maybe a honey-flavoured custard pie would help the visual punchline better.

There is a splendid finale to send the audience home happy and keep Neil Diamond in royalties.

So, welcome back to this famous theatre and well done to the camaraderie of the cast and the behind-the-scenes super-troupers: Chantelle Nolan, Jane Joseph and Bill Elms of Regal entertainments.

Globe verdict: Four stars

High energy - Huge fun

It's at The Epstein until January 9.

Tickets from the box office on 0844 888 9991