THROWING the audience headfirst into the panto world, director Ed Curtis opens his Jack and the Beanstalk at the Alhambra in Bradford with the legendary line "Fee-fi-fo-fum" and we’re booing within minutes of the lights dimming.

The giant’s servant, Fleshcreep (John Challis aka Boycie, of Only Fools and Horses fame), is pitted against 'The Spirit of the Bean' (Lisa Riley) as the Strictly Come Dancing music acts as her entrance tune, marking her off as the 'fairy godmother' character.

Curtis knows exactly how to satisfy his audience, quickly playing on every panto stereotype. As is to be expected, he also peppers his loose 'script' with corny regional gags to keep the locals chuckling: a collection of donkeys are apparently called 'Bradford City FC', while Fleshcreep jokes Bradfordians will have to "flee and live in Halifax" and later breaks the fourth wall, exclaiming: "Don’t things happen fast in Bradford... unless you’re building The Broadway?"

Ian Westbrook’s illustrated set matches vibrant costumes and clearly targets the tastes of younger audience members, including fluorescents; the random appearance of a Thunderbird One rocket; a giant beanstalk; a helicopter hovering stage front over the audience and a sizeable model of the giant. There’s impressive attention to detail, undoubtedly appealing more to adult viewers: the giant’s lair has barrels of 'Pickled Spleens'; his kitchen includes book titles, such as 'How To Spit Roast A Shepard' and in the market, two of the sign-posted shops are 'Pat, the Butcher' and 'Ted, the Baker'.

Like the set, gags play out on two levels, with occasionally slightly awkward adult innuendo and gyrating moves from 'Benny-Dorm' (Jake Canuso), considering the show’s primary target audience is little’uns.

While fart jokes and classic cracker gags are directed at the children, intentionally rude tongue-twisters keep accompanying adults happy, alongside absurd fun-poking touches like the giant granny pants worn by all the dancers, Princess Apricot’s (Sarah Vaughan) unbelievable love interest (Pearce) and crew out-right ridiculing the show by giggling or commenting on it.

Everything about this panto pays homage to time-honoured genre conventions, with audience sing-alongs, a drag Dame (a fabulous Adam Stafford), child participation, slapstick physical theatre, shout-backs aplenty, local/cast in-jokes, so-good-they’re-bad one-liners and over-egged repetition.

The Alhambra’s Jack is tradition on steroids, with everything bigger and better than pantos of old, including a gratuitous 3D segment and lively disco soundtrack. Despite some weak opening vocals, whether you love or hate the genre, it’s difficult not to appreciate the show’s production values or cast’s unwaning good-humour and energy. Perfect family fun this festive season.

Jack and the Beanstalk shows at The Alhambra in Bradford until January 24 2016.

Leo Owen