You might think it is too soon to be talking about Christmas, but behind the scenes scripts are already stirring.

The Alban Arena have not only announced this year’s production, but actors have been cast and Paul Hendy is putting the finishing touches to the script.

It will be the Middle Eastern folk tale made famous across the world in 1992 when Disney made it into an animated musical film. Can you guess it?

Aladdin, of course, and the Alban Arena promise that it will be their “biggest, best and funniest panto ever”.

I had the chance to meet a few of the actors to find out more…

St Albans & Harpenden Review:

Phil Gallagher will play Wishee Washee

He is a BAFTA nominated performer, best known for his role as CBeebies’ Mister Maker. In total there have been seven series of the show so far, including arty adventures in Mister Maker Around the World – where filming took place in the UK, Australia, Hong Kong, South Africa and Brazil. 2016 saw the launch of the brand new series Mister Maker’s Arty Party.

Have you done panto before?

I have. In fact I’ve been here in 2011 and 2012. Last time I was here was last time Aladdin was here, then I was the hero and now I’m the friendly village idiot.

Why do you like it?

I love the fact that it’s a family show. It might seem obvious, but a lot of the pantos I’ve been to see are really entertaining and funny but the Alban Arena pantos are really something else. They really try and do something for all ages, plus it’s an amazing venue.

Tell me about working on Mister Maker

Mister Maker has become my life, and that’s amazing. I worked for the BBC for a few years before and I’ve worked in kids’ TV for 10 years now. I was behind the scenes for 10 years and then 10 years ago I got the Mister Maker job and thankfully it has done really well.

It was my dream when I was growing up to be a kids’ TV presenter.

You do it on TV but also in live shows, what do you prefer?

Live performance is more stressful and tiring but you get the live reaction from the audience and that’s amazing.

St Albans & Harpenden Review:

Bob Goulding will play Widow Twankey

He performed in Morecambe, a one man play celebrating comic legend Eric Morecambe. It received a Fringe First award; Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and a Best Actor nomination; Best Solo performer at the Whats On Stage Awards and Bob performed at the Royal Variety Performance.

Have you done panto before?

I’ve been here seven years, I started off in a comedy sidekick role and progressed to dame. I have, in fact, done Aladdin here before. I played PC Pongo.

There are so many shows, do you always enjoy yourself?

It’s what I’ve been trained to do so I look forward to doing it. It is exhausting, but you just take it on. I think it’s impossible to hate doing panto, as a performer and an actor the reaction is so immediate.

Why do you like panto?

We’re a family of people, everyone has their role to play and if you’re not a team player you tend not to last very long.

What other work have you done?

I just finished working with Dick and Dom on Diddy TV, it’s the fourth or fifth time I’ve worked with them. I do a lot of kids’ TV.

St Albans & Harpenden Review:

Karl Howman will play Abanazer

He worked with Barrie Keefe on many of his plays, starting with Only A Game in 1971 and culminating with My Girl and Wild Justice; both of which were written for him. He played the lead Bill Snibson in Me and My Girl for a record-breaking year at the West End’s Adelphi Theatre.

Karl recently spent two and a half years on EastEnders as the popular character Andrew “Buster” Briggs. Karl also played Jacko in Brush Strokes and played the title role in Mulberry.

Have you done panto before?

Yes, quite a few times. I’ve directed panto and I’ve directed theatre, I always step in and out.

Why do you like panto?

The audience participation. Every show is different. When you work in straight theatre or comedy it’s precise, all the laughs came in at a certain time but in panto you can try and out it in the right place, but laughs come in everywhere.

Everybody is going to tell you – and it’s absolutely true – it’s the younger generation’s genuinely first introduction to live shows. If you can capture them then you’ve got them coming back and you’ve got somebody who will enjoy live theatre and might bring their children. Or they might realise that TV and video games aren’t the be-all-and-end-all. Attention spans should be an hour and a half.

It is a lot of shows, is it tiring?

The kids give it the lift, they lift you along, you’re on a tidal wave with them and that’s special.

Will anyone be coming to see you?

I’ve got five grandchildren. One has seen me in panto, the eldest, she’s 17.  The others, who are 13, 10, nine and five they haven’t. So I’m really excited for that. The younger one just want to see Phil, they’ll want Mister Maker.

Aladdin will run between December 7, 2017 and January 7, 2018. Details: 01727 844488