Strictly Come Dancing head judge Shirley Ballas is following in famous footsteps as the star of this year’s Liverpool Empire pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk.

Top showbiz names have played the lead down the years, including Davy Jones of The Monkees, Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black and even Rod Hull and his Emu!

iNostalgia looks back at the annual productions that have delighted audiences of all ages at the Lime Street theatre for more than half a century.

Monkees’ frontman Davy Jones surrounded by the chorus of Jack and the Beanstalk, December 1979

Monkees’ frontman Davy Jones surrounded by the chorus of Jack and the Beanstalk, December 1979

International Latin dance champion Ballas, born in Wallasey, plays Mother Nature in this year’s panto. Comedian John Evans is her sidekick Simple Simon.

Back in 1975, Rod Hull and his highly aggressive puppet Emu were the big panto attractions.

The demented bird attacked anything that moved – and some things that didn’t. In 1972, it famously destroyed the Queen Mother’s bouquet of flowers at the Royal Variety Performance.

Rod Hull and Emu with Georgina Moon, Barbara New, Carl Wayne and Billy Dainty, December 1975

Rod Hull and Emu with Georgina Moon, Barbara New, Carl Wayne and Billy Dainty, December 1975

Hull and Emu also made an unforgettable TV appearance on the Michael Parkinson show in 1976.

Parkinson fell off his chair and fellow guest Billy Connolly warned Hull: ‘If that bird comes anywhere near me I’ll break its neck and your arm!’

Starring alongside Hull at the Empire were TV actress Georgina Moon as Sleeping Beauty, Barbara New as the Tea Lady, singer Carl Wayne as Jack and comedian Billy Dainty as the panto dame.

Liverpool actress Margi Clarke backstage with the crew of Cinderella, January 1990

Liverpool actress Margi Clarke backstage with the crew of Cinderella, January 1990

Four years later, singer Davy Jones took the spotlight in another version of Jack and the Beanstalk. Our picture shows him surrounded by the show’s chorus line.

Jones was no stranger to the stage. He played the Artful Dodger in Oliver in London’s West End before rocketing to superstardom as the lead singer of The Monkees.

In 1982, it was the turn of comedian Norman Vaughan to star in a lavish production of Cinderella. Vaughan played Buttons with Stacey Gregg as Cinders.

Bread star Peter Howitt strums the guitar backstage in Cinderella, January 1990

Bread star Peter Howitt strums the guitar backstage in Cinderella, January 1990

Fresh from the BBC TV sitcom It Ain’t Half Hot Mum were Vaughan’s co-stars Windsor Davies and Melvyn Hayes, dressed up to the nines as the Ugly Sisters.

Comedians Syd Little and Eddie Large, aided and abetted by TV-am character Roland Rat, topped the bill in Dick Whittington in 1987.

Our photo shows them pushing a supposedly broken-down Ratmobile with RAC patrolman Ken Bradley and Eddie’s four-year-old son Ryan.

Jimmy Cricket with Neighbours stars Gayle and Gillian Blakeney, December 1992

Jimmy Cricket with Neighbours stars Gayle and Gillian Blakeney, December 1992

Liverpool Echo photographers went behind the scenes at the Empire in 1998 to film Margi Clarke and Peter Howitt getting ready to star in Cinderella.

Liverpool-born Clarke played the Fairy and Howitt was Buttons. Clarke appeared twice in the TV soap Brookside before filming the movie Letter to Brezhnev. She also starred as Queenie in the BBC series Making Out.

Howitt was best known for playing Joey Boswell in Carla Lane’s Liverpool-based sitcom Bread on BBC1. He was in the show from 1986 to 1988 and is now a film director.

The cast of Cinderella including Norman Vaughan, Windsor Davies and Melvyn Hayes, February 1982

The cast of Cinderella including Norman Vaughan, Windsor Davies and Melvyn Hayes, February 1982

Finally, Irish comedian Jimmy Cricket headed the cast of Dick Whittington in 1992. Our photo shows him relaxing in the upper circle with Neighbours stars Gayle and Gillian Blakeney.

Gayle and Gillian were identical twins who played Caroline and Christina Alessi on the Australian soap – and were at the height of their fame in the early 1990s.

They even released two singles in 1993 and 1994 before moving to the USA to work on business ventures as well as acting.

In fact Gillian, now aged 52, runs her own scarf company.

Dick Whittington stars Syd Little and Eddie Large give Roland Rat a push, December 1987

Dick Whittington stars Syd Little and Eddie Large give Roland Rat a push, December 1987