Published: 11:31, 04 December 2019
| Updated: 12:21, 04 December 2019
It's been 10 years since Ben Roddy first stepped on stage in the Marlowe Theatre's panto.
If you've been to see the Canterbury show in that time - and thousands of us have - you'll know the incredible fondness audiences have for his irrepressibly loud, over the top performances and quick-fire wit.
And if you go to this year's show, Mother Goose, you'll really feel the love, because Evolution Productions have made him the star of it all.
Last night, no-one was left in any doubt just how much love there was for Ben (who never forgets to give late comedian Dave Lee, who played the Dame before him, a name check) as the round of applause at the end to mark the milestone went on... and on - and would have probably continued for longer had he not told the audience: "Look, I have got a bus to catch, you know."
The show has all the elements every Marlowe pantogoer has come to know and love and just the right mix of familiarity and new ideas.
Its slick production, fast-paced gags and dance routines are as polished as ever, though, obviously we all love it when it goes wrong (even if we know it might be staged). Highlights last night were Mother Goose's chosen man in the audience Andy naming her 8ft goose Sally rather than Susie - which the all-singing, all-dancing routine that followed had been based on - a confetti cannon with no button to press, that then went off at the perfect wrong moment, and Mother Goose's high-flying scene which saw her bikini-clad figure getting awkwardly caught up in the wires.
Sharing the limelight with Ben was musical director Chris Wong, who has notched up 25 years with the Marlowe and who was seen on stage more than any other year, including in the legendary ghost scene - after all, he has played the Ghostbusters theme tune for it 13,500 times.
He'd also waited a quarter of a century for his first line, and it was worth the wait.
The show did seem to include several more musical numbers than in previous years too, which may have been in his honour too.
Medway's Dr Ranj is making his panto debut this year and it's clear to see he is relishing it, getting to show off some Strictly moves and talking to the audience.
The show wouldn't be what it is without all its elements working at their peak and that includes Lloyd Hollett as Billy Goose, Matt Devitt as Squire Squashem, and, for me, the surprise of the night, Marc Pickering as Demon Vanity, the best baddie in quite a few years (whose comeuppance was to be banished to panto in Chatham). And of course all the supporting cast and young dancers, who did not put a foot wrong.
The Sheppey joke also snuck in there, despite the cast declaring it wouldn't be, and chants of "You don't get that in the Dartford panto" also raised some laughs.
Whitstable actress Jenna Russell as Fairy Goodfeather was a delight, and the extra entertainment which was wheeled in (I won't say more than this) had the wow factor.
With such a huge weight of expectation now on the show, it wouldn't be surprising if the panto did disappoint one year.
But this year isn't it.
* Mother Goose, sponsored by Superior Healthcare and Walker Construction, runs at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury until Sunday, January 12. To book tickets got to marlowetheatre.com or call the box office on 01227 787787.
More by this authorAngela Cole