KIDS will have a blast at the Carnegie Hall's Hansel & Gretel panto...and adults will love it too.

A dark 19th century tale by the Brothers Grimm has been transformed into a Christmas tale to rival any.

There's a talking cabbage, a flatulant sidekick, great special effects (including smellyvision) and the best panto baddy the Press has witnessed in a long time.

It's underpinned by a strong storyline thanks to writer/director Jonathan Stone who remains (fairly) faithful to the original Grimm story.

It's enhanced for the stage with snappy dialogue, lashings of humour and a great soundtrack from a live orchestra (featuring adaptations of Madness, The Monkees and Pink).

Hansel & Gretel is by no means a schmaltzy Christmas rework.

There's perpetual hunger, a father who can't find work, and frightened children being whipped deep in the woods.

The star of the show is the child-eating Whilimena �belt�ter (Gayle Telfer Stevens), "The Vickedest Vitch this side of Vindygates".

Her interaction with kids in the audience was fantastic, with a litany of Bavarian-accented insults (your kids are safe; greedy as she is, she draws the line at feasting on "peely wally" Scots).

This panto enchanted children at the morning performance I attended, because it wholeheartedly involves them.

They identify with sweety-obsessed Hansel and practical Gretel and are invited to join them every fateful step of the way as the adventure goes deeper into the forbidding forest before reaching a climactic festive conclusion.

Hansel and Gretel, Carnegie Hall, until 24th December. For times, call the box office on 602302 or visit