STEVEN Arnold, the lead attraction from soapland in this winter’s Grand Opera House panto, celebrated his 37th birthday on Monday.

He is an essentially quiet lad, not one for a fuss, and so while cake and candles came out for the matinee, nothing was said at press night.

He prefers it that way, apparently, and it was very much in keeping with his gentle, low-key performance in the title role of Aladdin that night. No fanfare for one-time Ashley the butcher from his long stretch on Coronation Street.

Instead he is first spotted rushing on and off stage pursued by 16-year-old Copmanthorpe actor George Stagnell's Constable Wun Tun and his first scene passes without saying a line.

Later Arnold makes reference to a larger-than-life uncle he once knew – presumably a reference to Corrie's John Savident judging by the impersonation.

As with that partnership, he is happy to work around louder performances in Aladdin too, whether by Phil Randall's Welsh dame Widow Twankey – whose fabulous costumes and headdresses by Susan Hardy of London are louder still – or Aiden J Harvey's Wishee Washee.

Impressionist and north country comedian Harvey is the closest the Grand Opera House pantomime comes to a regular cast member.

Aladdin 2011-2012 is his seventh show here and if his comic patter is a throwback to the Seventies – not least his now politically incorrect mockery of the Chinese mangling of the English language – his goofy teeth, bouncy gait, retro impressions and cheeky-chappy schtick go down well with the young audience.

His is the vital performance, the experienced hand on the tiller, who throws in a few references to bring the show up to date, even if he has to follow up an impersonation of a Bet 365 advert by naming its voiceover perpetrator, Ray Winstone, in one of the more bizarre extraneous moments of a show that sticks precisely and concisely to its running time of two hours and 15 minutes.

The bubbliest turn comes from bonny Daniella Gibb, whose West End past in Mamma Mia! and Les Miserables shines through her lovely Princess Yasmin, especially when she sings the not instantly familiar When Will My Life Begin?, (from the 2010 Disney film Tangled, and Your Silhouette, from Katherine Jenkins's Daydream album, fact fans.) She is aided and abetted by the sunshine personality of Jessica Francis Jackson's So Shi, who also handles the show's choreography, with plenty of limelight for senior dancers and Babes teams alike.

Jonathan Penton’s Emperor of China enters the spirit, but Dan Styles’s icy Abanazar could do with better lines, as was the case in the last Aladdin he did at the Opera House in 2006; Lucy Lavelle’s Genie of the Ring looks what she was – a late replacement – and John Sagar's Genie of the Lamp is more lump than lamp.

As ever, this Simon Barry pantomime is low on invention, the routines tried and rusted, the jokes as over-familiar as a pub lecher, the topical references shoved in, Fatima Whitbread here, Willie Carson, there, without taking the joke further.

No matter who is in the cast, they say pretty much the same every year, and so alas does your reviewer, who still wants rather more than this year's shiny new sets for freshness. The show is amiable, perky, reliable, but one day it should surely be more than that?

Aladdin, Grand Opera House, York, until Sunday, January 1. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or visit