Booked the panto yet? Muddy’s definitive guide!
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I’m not going to do any of those lame panto jokes (oh yes I am – oops!).
I’ve always loved a good panto — probably more than my kids do, to be honest– and will happily spending as long you like booing the baddies and cheering when the fairy godmother flies in. I’ve put together a definitive list of all the best pantos and Christmas shows locally and further afield, so you can choose which Widow Twanky, Buttons or D-list celeb you prefer…
Cinderella, Hertford Theatre, 6 Dec – 31 Jan
Ooo, ooo, I know this one! Check out my review. Loved it.
Jack And The Beanstalk (12 Dec – 3 Jan) & Sleeping Beauty (9 – 17 Jan), Broxbourne Civic Hall
I expect telly’s Charlie Dimmock will be digging deep (sorry…) in her role as Fairy Organic in Broxbourne’s Jack and the Beanstalk this year alongside local magician Michael Otton. They’re promising heaps of slapstick and audience participation, with Charlie cheering Jack on and up that beanstalk to battle the giant Blunderbore.
But one panto just isn’t enough for Broxbourne, so Sleeping Beauty will be taking over in January. You’ve got to love a panto dame — especially when she’s called Lucy Lastic – and there’s a dragon to liven things up even more!
Aladdin, Court Theatre, Tring, 27 Dec – 4 Jan
The Court Theatre always puts on a proper panto – no soap stars, no Z-list celebs, just local talent and everyone on stage for a good old sing-along at the end. It’s the one I take my little darlings to every year – see you there! – and it’s an absolute bargain. It’s old-fashioned and family-friendly – the jokes are pitched just right, with any innuendos pitched neatly over the little ones’ heads – and you’ll be booing those baddies with the best of ‘em.
Sleeping Beauty, Hawthorne Theatre, Welwyn Garden City, 20 Dec – 3 Jan
This year, the Hawthorne Theatre is heading to a faraway land with a sleepy princess, a handsome prince, and the fabulously-named Dame Kitty La Quiche. It’s directed by Olivier Award winning Guy Masterson, and is full of local talent. Just don’t get mixed up and book tickets for their other Christmas offering, Sleeping Booty (ADULTS ONLY) – or you’ll be busy in the car on the way home explaining the difference between pricking your finger and, well, you get the idea. Sounds like a laugh, but book a babysitter.
Jack and the Beanstalk, The Alban Arena, St Albans, 5 Dec – 4 Jan
The Alban Arena has lots of people off the telly in their Jack and the Beanstalk this year. There’s Steve McFadden – yes, Phil Mitchell – as the evil Fleshcreep, Rebecca Keatley from Cbeebies as Fairy Sugarsnap, ‘Morecambe’ actor Bob Golding popping on a dress as Dame Trott, and Jemma Carlisle doing her princess thing. There’s even a break-dancing pantomime cow (wouldn’t want to be the back end) and they’re promising some pretty amazing special effects in what’s being billed as their most spectacular panto ever..
Peter Pan, The Queen Mother Theatre, Hitchin, 11 – 20 Dec
The story of Peter Pan never grows old (see what I did there?), and the production this Christmas at the Queen Mother Theatre sounds a like an awfully big adventure. Tickets are very reasonable and it sounds like it would make a magical change from the usual run of slapstick and big blokes in drag.
Sleeping Beauty, Watford Palace Theatre 5 – 27 Dec
Watford Palace Theatre’s Sleeping Beauty is chock-full of very experienced stage actors, so it should be a treat acting-wise. Thing is, you don’t go to panto just for the acting, so there’s also a whole lot of slapstick, song and dance, and audience participation going on – as well as live musicians on stage.
You can find Aladdin at the Watersmeet Theatre in Rickmansworth, as well as at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevange where Shaun Williamson will be starring. There’s also a rather raunchier version — Aladdin Trouble (ADULTS ONLY) — at the Market Theatre in Hitchin.
For some more traditional Christmas shows, check out A Christmas Carol at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City for some ghostly business, Dick Whittington at the Bull Theatre in Barnet and Rhodes Bishops Stortford, or Hansel and Gretel at the Market Theatre in Hitchin.
For something a little bit different, try the Twelve Days of Christmas at the Ark Theatre in Borehamwood, Once Upon a December at the Bull Theatre in Barnet, Where the White Stops at Hemel Hempstead’s Old Town Hall, or Santa in Love (aww…) at Letchworth Arts.
Cinderella, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury, 12 Dec – 4 Jan
Suzanne Shaw is the big draw this year’s Cinderella (yes, you read that right) with Russell Grant, local celeb Andy Collins (the best thing in the show for sure) and panto regular Holly Brewer also starring. Tickets from £11.90.
Peter Pan, Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes, 2 Dec – 11 Jan
Bradley Walsh stars as Smee in this year’s Peter Pan (keep reading, it gets better), joined by the dance group Flawless – yes, Flawless!!! – who are taking to the panto ropes as Captain Hook’s hip-hop crew. I’m sooooo seeing this, it should be great. Tickets from £13.90.
Dick Whittington, Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe, 13 Dec – 4 Jan
The biggest name in the local battle of the pantos, Shane Richie returns to The Wycombe Swan for a second year running to star in Dick Whittington. Friends of mine who saw him as Buttons in last year’s Cinderella said he was brilliant, so your money will be well spent, even if the tickets are slightly buttock-clenching at £18.75+
Mother Goose, Hackney Empire, London (until 4 Jan)
The flagship London panto, this year the most famous panto dame of them all Clive Rowe returns for a night of superpro costumes, singing, dancing and family innuendo. Worth the visit.
Cinderella, New Wimbledon Theatre, Wimbledon, 05 Dec – 11 Jan
Yet another Cinderella to hit the panto circuit this year, but this one has a whopper cast, including Matthew Kelly as an ugly sister alongside Matthew Rixon, a reprise of their partnership in Wimbledon’s production of Aladdin last year and are joined by ‘Dallas’ star Linda Gray making her panto debut as Fairy Godmother. So many luvvies that Wayne Sleep is nearly an afterthought. Tickets start from £11.90.
The Night Before Christmas, Soho Theatre, London, 29 Nov – 5 Jan
Soho Theatre can be relied upon for something a big different, and this darkly funny, weird and wonderful new Christmas musical about an Elf is strictly for adult eyes only. Fab cast too – Rebecca Atkinson (Shameless); Navin Chowdhry (Teachers); Craig Gazey (Coronation St); and Craig Kelly (Queer as Folk, Coronation St) dispense something less sparkly, and more sexy than the usual panto fare.