The Enchanted Pig, Young Vic, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

The Young Vic is renowned for regularly providing the best Christmas show in London. And I'm delighted to say that it has done so again in its newly refurbished home with this exhilarating opera for children (and discerning adults).

The show boasts witty, versatile lyrics by Alasdair Middleton and an inspiring through-sung score by Jonathan Dove. Presenting the story on a set of mottled silver and sending the heroine soaring in harnessed flight over the audience, John Fulljames' excellent production has mischievous humour and visual beauty (the lovely design is by Dick Bird). Add to this a cast who are in superb, supple voice and are fully at home with the various idioms, and you have a show whose sense of fun, range and imaginative coherence puts the RSC's newMerry Wives - the Musical to shame.

The show draws on Romanian and Norwegian folk tales, with reminiscences of "Beauty and the Beast" and the myth of Cupid and Psyche. Left alone by their father, a boxing champ chump of a King (John Rawnsley), the three princesses defy his orders and enter a locked room where they read their futures in the Book of Fate. But where her gloating sisters get to marry normal heroes, Flora (the splendid, vibrantly voiced Caryl Hughes) is assigned a pig for a husband.

You could quibble that it is too clear that under his leather, big-shouldered costume and metal ring of a snout, Rodney Clarke's glorious Pig is a fine figure of a virile Prince and that it's odd that he sings in the same heroic baritone on both sides of the species divide.

But that's only the first part of the story. Flora's growing love frees him to the limited extent of allowing him to be human at night. Nuala Willis's hilarious suburban matron of a villainess then tricks the princess into the belief that if she ties him to the bed, she will break the spell. But Flora succeeds only in breaking the trust between them and in handing him over to a rival would-be bride. Tracking down and liberating her man, she meets some delectably ridiculous examples of so-called wedded bliss en route, like the lugubrious, elderly Northern couple, who are resigned to one another's revolting habits and sit in armchairs as they sing: "Oh we're in love all right, don't doubt it./ We just don't make a song and dance about it." On all artistic levels, this Enchanted Pig brings home the bacon.

To 27 January (020-7928 6363; www.youngvic.org)

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