His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen

Mary Brennan, four stars

WHO’D have thought it, ever? Wee Jimmy Osmond – as clean-cut a teeny pop idol as any anxious parent could wish for – grew up and went over to the Dark Side... Or, at any rate, as dark as it gets when you’re playing Abanazar in this cheerfully rambunctious Aberdeen panto. As per the familiar story, Osmond’s swaggering baddie heads to old Peking where Widow Twankey (Alan McHugh) is man-handling the dirty laundry while Aladdin (Jordan Young) is forever in hot water. Now HMT regulars probably expected that Young would be adding to his roster of cleverly-pitched, amiable dumb-clucks - and in a way he is: not as a doolally Wishee-Washee, but as a goofy Aladdin. Luckily Princess Jasmine (Lisa Anne Wood) recognises total, unconditional adoration when it falls at her feet – often literally – and decides to marry him, as Osmond’s Abanazar sings it, “for a reason, Let the reason be love…” Aaaaw, the nice. This romantic twist doesn’t, however, get in the way of the existing comedy partnership between Young and McHugh, where a decade of shared funny business makes their sharp’n’sassy banter seem spontaneous - which on occasions it probably is, given that both these guys have witty panto tactics on speed dial.

If McHugh’s garrulously garish Dame walks the walk of tradition on varicose-veined legs, his script has a fresh, updated feel with puns and punchlines for all occasions, although for HMT audiences the uber-droll use of local references is inspired - like a lovely hug of familiarity that says ‘we ken where you live’ and you matter to us. Popular songs get lyrics re-written to fit the story-line, the special effects don’t overshadow the cast and by the end we’re happy to party like it’s 1983 again – when Aberdeen FC won the European Cup Winners' Cup, ken…