Every year Jon Conway looks for ways to surprise Bradford's panto audiences. The executive producer of Peter Pan, this year's Alhambra panto - which is now a week into its seven-week run - has added new touches such as a roller-skating Tinkerbell and streetwise Tiger Lily that he hopes will keep the story fresh.

"People think of Peter Pan as a musical and I wanted to retain the musical theatre feel, with traditional elements of panto," he says. "It opens in the Darling children's nursery- the look is quite subtle - then it leads into a full colour scene. It's a bit like the glorious Technicolor' transformation in The Wizard of Oz."

Last year's Alhambra panto, Aladdin, featured an array of special effects, including a magic carpet flying over the stage and a 3D genie, brought to life with interactive Bogglevision' technology. This year's show is less hi-tech but Jon says it's no less thrilling.

"It's a more of a theatrical event. There's a lot of story and it's a very physical show," he says. "It's more about stunts than technical effects. I'm full of admiration for the way the cast has thrown themselves into everything. They have to practice the sword fights and flying scenes every day; if you take your eye off the ball it can throw the whole thing out. We've had a couple of cut fingers in the sword fighting rehearsals!

"The flying is much more difficult than it looks. They're a lot higher up than you'd think. We've got Peter, Wendy and the children flying and they've had very little time to get used to moving with a harness on, and to make the flying look effortless."

Billy Pearce, as Mr Smee, takes to the air too, as well as tackling a range of other stunts.

"At one stage he falls into the orchestra pit - it's a ten-second routine that took him an hour-and-a-half to perfect," says Jon. "There's so much going into making everything just right and they only get a fortnight to put it all together. I was in a cab this morning and the driver said So when do you start rehearsing - September?'. He couldn't believe it was only last week."

Another highlight is Captain Hook's magnificent ship. "I've decided I'm having it for my garden; my kids will love it," Jon jokes. "We've copied the Phantom of the Opera boat scene, when it glides on stage, but instead of a dinghy we've got a galleon.

"All the sets and costumes are new and we've got an original score. Bradford has set such a high standard for panto and each year we want to offer something different. We've got nice touches like Tinkerbell on roller-skates. It keeps her on the move and she's very petulant which appeals to kids. Tiger Lily is our northern Red Indian with attitude!"

Jon, who runs production company Qdos with theatrical partner Nick Thomas, has written and directed more than 100 pantomimes. He has written for many of the country's top panto stars, including Frankie Howerd.

He's no stranger to treading the boards himself, having played comic roles in many pantos. He started performing as a child and was taught to be a comedy magician by Paul Daniels. He has appeared in TV dramas such as Coronation Street.

Jon's adaptation of Peter Pan, created in the 1990s, has been such a hit he was asked by Great Ormond Street Hospital to produce a new version for schools and drama groups. To date the Qdos production of JM Barrie's children's classic has raised more than £1 million for the London hospital.

Ten years ago Jon created Seventies-themed musical Boogie Nights with Shane Richie. More recently they created Boogie Nights 2 - This Time it's the Eighties, which became the first musical theatre sequel.

His latest creation is Simply Ballroom and he has written and directed Happy Days, a stage version of the American TV series which he created with Henry (the Fonz) Winkler.

In an age of iPods and CGI, when children's adventures come from a virtual world, does Jon find it heartening that youngsters are still so thrilled by the "Boo hiss" and "He's behind you" of panto?

"Absolutely. There's nothing else like it. These days we're competing against million dollar movies but cinema can be a bit knowing'. Live pantomime offers children an exciting collective experience. They get totally caught up in the action on stage.

"Whenever I come to the Alhambra I walk along the Francis Laidler corridor and look at the lovely old photographs of past pantos; the 1930s Sunbeams with their identical bob haircuts and the old music hall stars who appeared on this stage.

"It reminds me that this is a quintessentially British tradition that came from vaudeville and variety. It's something we have that the rest of the world doesn't."

  • Peter Pan runs at the Alhambra until January 27. For tickets ring (01274) 432000.

Tickets go well

The Alhambra's Peter Pan has already made more than £1 million, breaking all box office records in the theatre's panto history.

Box office takings reached more than £1 million before the run even opened, with more than 80,000 tickets booked.

Adam Renton, general manager of Bradford Theatres, says: "I am extremely pleased with the response to this year's pantomime. It's been nine years since Peter Pan was at the Alhambra and it has generated a huge amount of interest since going on sale last December, with ticket sales consistently ahead of last year's show."

Last year's production of Aladdin drew in crowds of more than 96,000, an increase of 16,000 from the previous year's production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.