The jury is sadly still out.
While Kaler might not be on stage this winter, he continues to write the annual panto and thanks to various cameo appearances, via video footage, he still looms large like the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Maybe that’s the problem. This production could have announced an exciting new era for the Theatre Royal, but instead it feels as though it has one foot welded in the past and well, rather ordinary.
It’s not all boos and hisses. As ever, David Leonard strides out as an assured panto villain and together with Brummie side-kick AJ Powell as Darth Diva and a scene-stealing quartet of youngsters, they deliver most of the belly laughs.
Kaler’s old side-kick Martin Barrass steps into the Dame’s shoes, although with a significantly reduced wardrobe budget, and while his usual energetic fizz appears to have been a little dampened he remains an audience favourite.
This is a cast which oozes talent and maybe, just maybe, they would have been better served if the pause button had been pressed on the panto and the theatre had tried a different kind of Christmas show, one where Kaler wasn’t so obviously a missing piece of the jigsaw.
Let’s just call this the panto equivalent of the difficult second album and hope come 2020, the cast are all back to their brilliant best.
To January 25, yorktheatreroyal.co.uk