“Oh yes it has…” The Panto has been alive in our Christmas Culture for over 100 years.

It has never been done on quite the same scale and ambition though as is the case with the SSE Arena production of Aladdin in Belfast this festive season.

Joe Rea and Martin Lynch as M&J Pantos have been working on this project since February 2016 and the curtain will go up on the biggest Panto ever to be staged in Ireland on December 14th.

“We will have 29 performances between the opening show and December 27th and the reaction from across Belfast has been great,” said Rea speaking to Entertainment for Business this morning.

“As soon as we brought the idea to Robert Fitzpatrick and the team at the SSE Arena they were fully behind it.”

“It was the same with SSE Airtricity who are headline sponsors and are promoting the production through their SSE Airtricity Rewards programme.”

Pantomime is all about kids and families, and being together at a special time of year.  Tapping into the goodwill that generates is likely to prove a winner for the brand at a time of year when energy bills are at a peak.

“This is Pantomime on a scale which is bigger and bolder than the city has ever seen,” added Rea.

“We have learned from big productions in Glasgow and across the UK and are looking to strike the right balance between being a big production and still retaining the intimacy on which this form of entertainment thrives.”

“There is a fantastic team of creative people pulling it all together, all of them with theatrical experience and used to working to scale.”

“The talent is top class with Rhydian from the X-Factor as good a baddie as you could hope for, alongside Nadia Forde and Jake Carter.”

“We are bringing innovation as well with Q Radio running a Warm Up Party to get everybody bouncing for an hour before the start of the show.”

“They will be bringing their beatbox vehicle out in front of the stage and creating a bit of noise and a lot of laughs with their on-air presenters all involved as well.”

Britvic are on board with their Fruit Shoot brand as well and everybody involved is looking on this as being something special.

“This is all about giving the people of Belfast an alternative way to get together with family and have fun around the Christmas period.”

“Ticket sales have been strong already and we are just underway with a big promotional push with our partners at the moment so things are looking good.”

“Sure there are Christmas ads on the TV now so everybody’s mind is quickly turning to things festive.