PANTO continues to sprinkle heaps of joy upon us, as heavy as a Network Rail chief’s salary (£600k).

But it’s been all too easy to herald the panto favourites across the land, the household names such as Elaine C Smith, Grado and Allan Stewart.

What of those hardy campaigners taking to the smaller stages, who have to climb a beanstalk in each night, figuratively speaking, to win over audiences?

What of those relative unknowns who have to fairy-princess their way into people’s hearts without the fabulous costume, or miniature Shetland ponies?

What of those baddies who need to hook the children into believing they just might be evil, and be prepared to die in the end for their art in order that the children believe in fairies? Or those who play the lovelorn, hapless fools, who lose out in love when Cinders/Belle fails to notice them every single day of the run?

These heroes of small production panto need to be heralded. Oh yes, they do!

But smaller-scale shouldn’t suggest a diminished talent out there.

Cinderella is currently appearing in Paisley Arts Centre right now, a panto written by Andy McGregor, creator of the fabulous theatre works Crocodile Rock and Spuds. And he is considered to be one of the top comedy writers in the country.

The story of the young scullery servant with the tatty dress and lofty ambitions is also being told in Glenrothes, where talent such as River City’s Grew Powrie (Dizzy), and Cameron Fulton (Buttons) can be appreciated. And alongside the pair are talents such as actor-singer Kim Shepherd (Cinderella) and Martine McMenemy (Fairy G).

And just look at the imagination going into Lewis Hetherington’s Sleeping Beauty at the Platform in Easterhouse. The playwright with the international pedigree has set his panto in a carpet showroom, owned by Big Jimmy – who likes to dress up as Elvis – who is the father of Beauty (Jimmy, that is, not Elvis), who likes to be known as B.

That sense of clever re-setting of the traditional stories can certainly apply to Johnny McKnight’s Maw Goose, now running at the Macrobert Arts Centre in Stirling. We find Maw Goose, played to perfection by Brian James O’Sullivan, being threatened with eviction from her dance academy for not paying panto tax, while eldest son Jack is missing ballet class – because he’s fallen for new pupil, Jill. Will their romance tumble down the hill? Will Maw Goose make enough money to pay for her Botox regime? Watch out for the irrepressible Helen McAlpine as the evil Narcissa and Amy Connachan’s Jill.

So have a look in on the smaller stage pantos out there. You won’t find the quality reduced.

Indeed, the more intimate spaces can create the conditions for even more empathy with the downtrodden, more worked-up antipathy for the cartoon evil up there. You’ll get to see the actors close up; you’ll feel the passion in their performance.

You may not see seven dwarves on view. The glass slippers may be made of shiny material from Primark and the beanstalk simply back projection. And the magic carpet could well be an offcut from Carpet Kingdom.

But the magic content will be massive.

SHE has a heart colder than an industrial freezer.

She is a creature seemingly devoid of empathy.

She is self-absorbed and an ace manipulator.

We are talking here about Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen, the icicle-veined creation now brought back to stage life by Scottish Ballet.

The journey this time around sees us travel from a bustling winter’s market to the shivers of a fairy-tale forest.

There, we arrive at the Snow Queen’s palace, to find her surrounded by the icy fragments of an enchanted mirror.

We learn of the story of Kai and Gerda, who were parted by a spell, with Kai becoming an ice-bound hostage to the lonely Queen while Gerda is left in a tragic mess, her warm tears turning to ice.

The action moves to a Travellers camp, where the Rimsky-Korsakov music sparks dance that “swaggers and spins with flamboyant energy – enhanced on-stage by solo violinist, Gillian Risi”, in dance critic Mary Brennan’s words.

And from here we are treated to swirls of snowflakes, Jack Frosts and Snow Wolves. And of course, we have the sub-plot of how the Snow Queen takes on the challenge that is her sister, the Summer Queen.

Will Kai and Gerda get back together? Will the warring sisters find a way to make peace?

Christopher Hampson’s choreography and the design by the award-winning Lez Brotherston uses this chilling context to highlight the importance of love and friendship – and how our seemingly dark lives can be joyfully lit up.

The tale, which was also the basis for Frozen, is a ballet for all the family, a spectacle to spirit hearts and minds far away our own cold realities.

The Theatre Royal, Glasgow, until January 8