THIS panto is certainly value-for-money which is great news in these cash-strapped times.

Jack and the beanstalk a two-and-a-half-hour (including interval) fast-paced show with with plenty of surprises.

Talking of surprises, there was one for director Olivia Sloyan who bravely stepped into the spotlight to play the Feisty Fairy Mary after original actress fell ill.

It is all down to teamwork and the six-strong cast shine through and look as though they are having a ball in the process which eggs on the audience to do the same.

First the songs. The selection is diverse from the Tom Jones classic It's Not Unusual to Queen's Don't Stop Me Now and the Tommy Steele movie hit What A Picture!

The storyline structure is somewhat lost in the frenetic pace but all the key traditional elements are there: Beanstalk; Giant and the panto cow.

That allows for lots of daft sketches from the 'it's behind you' ghostie shout out; a silly but enjoyable classroom routine; grand wedding ball and the bit where kids come up for junior audience partcipation.

The hard-working cast deserve an individual and collective thumbs up.

The home-grown talents of Timothy Lucas (Jack Trott) and Lewis Devine as his brother Simon provide a good double act of Scouse humour.

The stand-off between Fairy Mary and the boo-able Mrs Fleshcreep (Abigail Middleton) works well throughout.

And Maddie Hope Coelho is a delightful Princess Jill alongside the many colourful, inventive gown changes by Dame Dolly Trott (Mark Two).

Mark's Statue of LIberty outfit has to be seen to believed - but I can say it does come up 'trumps.'

There is also the added bonus of the Light Fantastic Ultra Violet Fanatasies who have created a 'must see' puppet show in the Giant's kitchen.

Take a bow Regal Entertainments.

The costumes and design teams make this a visually spectacular production from start to finish as do the six senior dancers with some cracking choreography.

And don't forget dear Doddy the Cow - by Jove!

Globe verdict: Gigantic festive fun - four stars.

Jack and the beanstalk is at the Epstein Theatre until April 24. 

Tickets are from 0844 888 9991.