JUST when you thought panto season was drawing to a close, a much-looked forward to production by Merlin, is set to take place from next week.

Cinderella and Friends is the 18th show put on by the amateur dramatics group, which has donated nearly £55,000 to local charities including Little Havens and Southend Scouting.

The panto promises "fun, music and mayhem" via a traditional panto format "with a twist".

It opens on February 14 until February 17 at The Thorpe Hall Studio Theatre, in Wakering Road, Southend, for a run of seven performances throughout the half-term holiday.

Cinderella and Friends follows last year’s success of Dick Whittington which sold out.

Since forming in 2000, Merlin’s pantomimes include music and dance, slapstick, drama, good-versus-evil, The Panto Dames, colourful costumes, sing-along and more.

Melissa Berrecloth of Merlin Productions explains: "Long ago there lived four good friends – Jack, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and her sister, Snow White. Our story follows the four tales and cleverly weaves a plot that brings to life many of the characters we associate with these stories.

"Will Jack find his fortune and be able to buy Daisy the cow back Who hides Snow-White and did she really have a sister? Will the Princes’ find suitable brides, or will the slipper simply not fit What will happen too the ugly Sisters and will there be a happy ending to our story?"

Paul Newman, Merlin’s chairman, said added: "We are delighted with the outcome of last year’s show in terms of production quality, selling out and being able to donate nearly £3,000 to local charities, everybody is putting everything into making this year bigger and better."

The show runs every afternoon at 3pm from February 14 -16 and 2pm on February 17; with evening shows at 7.30pm on Thursday and Friday, and 6pm on Saturday.

Tickets are available from the box office on 07779 906040 at £11 each, with reductions for families.