PICKERING Musical Society's 100th anniversary celebrations begin with Hansel & Gretel, the annual pantomime written by life member Ron Hall and directed once again by Luke Arnold.

Running from Friday to January 20 at the Kirk Theatre, Pickering, the production follows the traditional fairytale and is set in the village of Munchin Koffdropp, deep in the heart of Germany.

As their adventure unfolds we meet Hansel and Gretel, played by two duos, Rosie Hodgson and Charlotte Watson and Erin Kalischer and Eve Holbrook, and their friends Heidi and Martin (Alice and Niamh Rose).

Kidnapped by their father (Colin Wragg) and stepmother (Linda Tester), the children are abandoned in the forest, where they find a wonderful gingerbread house. All is not what it seems, however, as this lovely home is owned by the Wicked Witch of the Wood (a very scary Maureen Symonds). Will good, in the form of the Forest Fairy (Paula Paylor) and all her friends, triumph over evil in the end?

Adding to the fun and games will be Marcus Burnside, again playing Pickering's panto dame, Miss Daisy Demeanour, and his sidekick Stephen Temple as Willie, the village idiot.

Hansel & Gretel marks the start of Pickering Musical Society's 100th anniversary year. Founded in 1919, the society has been producing musicals and pantomimes ever since.

Director and theatre manager Luke Arnold says: "We're all really proud that Pickering Musical Society has reached this wonderful milestone. It's a privilege to be directing the pantomime in this special year and so lovely to see so many people involved on stage and behind the scenes."

Arnold's cast comprises more than 40 performers aged eight to 80, including Pickering Musical Society Youth Theatre members and dancers from the Sarah Louise Ashworth School of Dance.

Tickets for the 7.15pm evening shows and 2.15pm Saturday and Sunday matinees are on sale at kirktheatre.co.uk or on 01751 472127.