AHOY there! Shiver me timers and splice the mainbrace - and Billy Pearce will take the jokes from there.

It’s all hands on deck on the Jolly Roger, as panto king Billy is joined by a first-class cast in Peter Pan, the Alhambra’s spectacular panto whisking audiences away to Neverland this Christmas.

With dancing mermaids, 3D piranhas, thrilling sword fights, surprise explosions and one very angry crocodile, this swashbuckling adventure blends dazzling special effects with slapstick fun, leaving delighted youngsters - and not-so-youngsters - on the edge of their seats.

A panto isn’t quite the same without a dame, and there isn’t one in Peter Pan, but Billy’s clowning and superb comic timing more than made up for that. “Hiya kids! I’m Smee - this year,” he grinned, with a knowing nod to this, his 18th Alhambra panto.

The audience adores him, and rightly so. Watching Billy in action is like watching a vaudeville entertainer; he makes it all look spontaneous, with every move, right down to his hilarious facial ticks, a masterclass in physical comedy. His voice-altering routine, and the Twelve Days of Christmas sing-along with the other principals, had us in stitches.

Billy’s scenes with Darren Day, as dastardly Captain Hook, were a joy. The pair formed a great double act, bouncing off each other with comic panache. Darren brought an edgy charm to Hook; a sneering villainous keeping one eye over his shoulder for his crocodile nemesis. He and Charlie Hardwick are both class act singers, and their duet on the Jolly Roger deck was a delight.

Charlie is a gem of a comic actress, she lit up the stage as feisty Mimi the Mermaid and shared great chemistry with Billy.

Jon Lee was an endearing Peter Pan, soaring through the air with ease, although I felt that, as an accomplished musical theatre star, he was under-used. Charismatic Lucy Evans gave a scene-stealing performance as cheeky Tinker Bell, while Rosie O'Hare and Marina Lawrence-Mahrra brought some oomph to Wendy and Tiger Lily, who could be quite wet characters in the wrong hands.

Well done too to local youngsters Theo Francis and William Campbell as John and Michael, the cute sunbeams from the Sara Packham Theatre School, and the talented dancers who did Stillie Dee's impressive choreography proud.

I won't give too much away about the special effects, but be warned - the 3D underwater adventure isn't for the fainthearted.

The Jolly Roger is one ship you won't want to sail away this Christmas.

Peter Pan runs until January 29.