Preparations are already ‘well underway’ for this year’s Gaiety Christmas pantomime.

Stage-ed, directed and co-founded by Manx actor Stephen Palfreman, has been awarded a three-year contract to produce and stage the staple in the island’s festive calendar.

And this year’s panto will be a magical retelling of the beloved story of Aladdin.

Stephen told Island Life: ‘We are really delighted to have been awarded the panto and look forward to bringing across a superb fun-filled panto for all the family.

‘We chose Aladdin primarily as it still remains one of the top selling pantos.

‘I also produced Aladdin at the Gaiety back in 2008 so a little nostalgic too! Although this is a brand new show.’

Aladdin will transport audiences on a magic carpet ride through the bustling streets of Peel where they’ll meet a cast of beloved characters including the streetwise Aladdin, Widow Twankey and Wishee Washee.

Together, they will embark on a magical adventure and try to defeat the evil Abanazar and his plan to become master of the world.

Will Aladdin save the day? Will he marry the beautiful Princess Jasmine? Will the Genie be freed?

Stephen said preparations are ‘well underway’. Stage-ed will be in the island for two weeks from July 24 to August 5 for the annual West End summer school held at Ballakermeen High School’s Studio Theatre.

‘While here we will be holding our auditions for all our local performers including some principal performers, dancers and of course our children performers,’ he said.

‘All our children attending our summer schools will be invited to audition, but this will be open to anyone across the island.’

He explained the cast will feature professional actors but the balance will be ‘firmly tipped in favour of the fantastic Manx talent there is on the island’.

The audience can expect stunning sets, dazzling costumes and impressive special effects in the family-friendly show along with a script full of laughs, toe-tapping musical numbers and plenty of audience participation.

Stephen grew up in Anagh Coar and developed an interest in drama while he was a student at Ballakermeen.

From there he spent two years with the National Youth Music Theatre before going to Mountview Theatre School in London.

He is one of the longest running leading men in the West End with his renowned performance as Mickey in the multi -award winning musical Blood Brothers having spanned nearly two decades. He has also performed extensively in the UK and Canada.

Stephen runs Stage-ed with fellow actor Mike Southern and it covers both education and entertainment.

‘Stage-ed work all over the world with young people in both education and performance, so to be able to do this in the Isle of Man is extra special,’ he said.

Stage-ed has been returning to the island every year for the past 11 years to run a West End School in Ballakermeen, building confidence and skills for performing on the stage.

They also provide opportunities to perform at their West End school or at the Musicals in Concert.

The island’s annual Musicals in Concert takes place at the Villa and is a concert performance of some of the world’s best loved musicals performed by a cast of West End professionals from a huge list of shows.

This year’s Musicals in Concert takes place on Sunday, October 8.

Aladdin will run at the Gaiety Theatre from December 16 to 31, with 22 performances including a relaxed performance on December 28 with a British Sign Language performer.

Tickets are available now online, from the VillaGaiety’s ticket hotline on 600555 or in person from the Welcome Centre at the Sea Terminal or the Villa Marina box office.