Panto is staging a spectacular comeback in Great Yarmouth with some shows almost sold out and many more bookings waiting in the wings.

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The festive genre faced a dramatic setback around six years ago when it was abruptly banished from crumbling St George’s Theatre amid safety fears.

It meant disappointed local folk had to go elsewhere for their colourful Christmas comedy and lead to an unprecedented absence in Yarmouth, one of the county’s largest towns.

Now the theatre - following a multi-million pound transformation - is hoping to interest a whole new audience.

Gavin Dean, who writes, directs and plays in Jack and the Beanstalk said he was delighted with the response so far.

Local folk, he said, had proved they had an appetite for panto and were booking early in good numbers alleviating any worries about whether anyone would come back after so long.

He said it was the first panto in the town for six years and the first professional one for a lot longer still. The five strong cast supported by interchangeable troupes of local dancers were deep in rehearsal ahead of a December 20 opening, buoyed by the number of bookings and looking forward to a successful first season.

With a mix of matinee and evening shows it was too early to tell which ones would be the most popular with the results likely to influence how things are done in future years.

Mr Dean said: “It is going to be excellent. We are really looking forward to it and we have put a lot of work into it. We want to make this a new Christmas tradition, something people come to every year. It is the beginning of a new era.”

Jack and the Beanstalk he said was one of his favourites, having been a panto regular at Bungay with Steve Ace for some years. It featured all the fun, comedy elements as well as Daisy the cow, a giant and a beanstalk.

“There will be comedy, slapstick and the right amount of drama and music as well as a few custard pies and some fun along the way. We want people to walk out of here having had a really good time. Some shows are close to selling out so we really feel positive. The nice thing is that people are ringing up and saying they have never been to St George’s. This is what panto is all about - people coming to the theatre and maybe joining us for other things throughout the year. It will be nice to share Christmas with lots of happy, smiling faces.”

The show is being staged in-house so all profits will be ploughed back into St George’s which is run as a charitable trust. To match their ambitions the cast are having to work from scratch to convert the stage into a traditional space and extend it.

The show runs from December 20 to January 5. Tickets priced £10.50, £8.50, family £35, discounts for groups, are available online at www.stgeorgestheatre.com or via box office on 01493 331484.

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