For me (and I suspect many other well-seasoned pantomime goers in the audience) this year's Aladdin at Norwich's Theatre Royal is the pick of the 2012 bunch. Of course, Richard Gauntlett could probably by now play Dame in his sleep (though you could never accuse him of sleep-walking through a performance) and his script for his own production has some very nice touches.

Chief among these is that we're back in the Arabia of semi-myth, which after all is where the story originates – no China, though Widow Twankey still runs a laundry. A shadow puppet introduction by the Genie of the Lamp (Nick Aldis) gives us the story of the young Aladdin who lost his father while exploring for the magical cave and was subsequently rescued and adopted by Twankey. Aldis has a commanding stage presence, as befits a wrestler of some renown.

No Genie of the Ring then, and of course no Emperor of China. Instead Princess Sukaria is her own ruler, on the brink of having to decide on a husband. Zoe Clarke makes her into a feisty young madam, happy to escape protocol and trusting in her troupe of monkeys (children from the Central School of Dancing and Performing Arts) to guard her rather than the local constabulary led by Steve Edwin's Sergeant (there's a good routine for this troop, which André Vincent's Wishee Whashee is over-eager to join).

Lucy Dixon plays Aladdin, very much a brisk lad with clear- – not to say clean- – cut ambition; the duets with Clarke are very good and Dixon takes off on several magic carpet rides with aplomb. We all love to boo and hiss the villain, and Graham Cole's Abanazar is a prime example of the species, though Gauntlett adds a particularly new twist to his relationship with Aladdin, which I won't spoil by disclosing. Find out for yourself!

Down in the pit, David Carter and his players produce a bright sound and flourish some clever musical comments on the action. The eight members of the dancing and singing chorus have some quick costume changes as well as some quite tricky moves dictated by Dee Jago's choreography. No designer is credited, but the painted backcloths and set pieces look fine and the special effects work splendidly.