"He's behind you!" etc.
Oh look, it’s PANTO season. The perfect time for actors and actresses to get a bit of money to pay off their mortgages now that those pay checks from Brookside have stopped coming in.
As you’d expect after a year off from treading the boards – there’s loads of pantos on this season – so you’re guaranteed a knee-slapping good time…
Aladdin @ Opera House
Saturday 11th December – Sunday 2nd January
The jewel in the city’s pantomime calendar this December is, obviously, the lavish production of Aladdin down at the Opera House. I suspect that this production won’t resemble the Disney version(s) in any shape or form, except for perhaps the Genie and Aladdin’s jazzy balloon pants that he got when he went travelling and “found himself”. This year’s production features Alexandra Burke, Ceri Supree, Ben Nickless and musical theatre sensation Matthew Croke.
Not So Ugly Sisters @ Waterside Arts Centre
Wednesday 24th November – Saturday 1st January
The previously unloved and ill-fated Ugly Sisters from Cinderella will finally get their moment in the spotlight this Christmas over at Waterside Arts Centre in Sale. They’ll be singing songs, righting wrongs and telling us how it is in this brand-new musical play. The Not So Ugly Sisters is a funny, fast-paced family show where the action centres around Dolly and Barb in their hairdressing salon on the day of their sister Cindy’s wedding to Prince Smarming. With the salon phone only ringing for customers to cancel their blow-dry appointments, it is time for the sisters to tell the much-loved story from their perspective. Hell hath no fury like a hairdresser scorned!
Dick Whittington and his Amazing Cat! @ Contact Theatre
Saturday 11th December – Monday 3rd January
The bloke who managed to fit all of his worldly possessions into a tiny bindle and actually thought that the streets of London would be paved with gold (instead of Maccies’ wrappers and vomit) – Dick Whittington will be popping up at Contact Theatre this Christmas. This isn’t just any Dick Whittington story though – this is an upbeat, modern production featuring an all-singing, all-dancing cast (with no washed up reality TV stars).
Treasure Island @ Middleton Arena
Tuesday 30th November – Tuesday 28th December
Starring a long list of celebrities from The X Factor, Hollyoaks and Corrie, Treasure Island will be taking over Middleton’s Area this Christmas. It’s all about a long-lost treasure map that leads to the titular Treasure Island – where the evil Long John Silver is looking to thwart the heroes and claim the gold as his own. They’re promising great songs, dazzling dance routines, stunning scenery, beautiful costumes and amazing special effects, and an “unforgettable experience for children and adults alike”.
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe @ The Lowry
Wednesday 8th December – Saturday 15th January
At first this might seem like a strange choice for Christmas pantomime, but the CS Lewis classic actually features Santa Claus himself – so it’s perfectly suited for this festive period. I suspect that this production won’t feature the likes of ‘Buttons’ and ‘Widow Twanky’ – this is a more serious endeavour without all of that silly audience participation. We all know the story – and this production promises to be “pure theatrical magic”.
Sleeping Beauty @ Queen Elizabeth Hall, Oldham
Tuesday 14th December – Sunday 2nd January
This panto in Oldham has some real star power behind it in the form of Kerry Katona (from Atomic Kitten and the Iceland adverts) and Bruce Jones (Les Battersby in Coronation Street). The all-singing, all-dancing production follows Princess Aurora as she prepares to celebrate her 18th birthday, and the curse that the Wicked Fairy Carabosse stitches her up with. There’s bits about a spinning wheel and some Prince called Percy too.
Dick Whittington @ The Stockport Plaza
Friday 3rd December – Sunday 9th January
Rescheduled from 2020, this production of much-loved hero Dick Whittington seeking fame and fortune alongside his trusty feline friend should prove to be a right festive Panto treat down at The Plaza in Stockport. Starring Brian Capron (Richard Hillman) who will make his welcome return as the ‘oh so evil’ King Rat, alongside the ever popular Bradley Thompson – a firm family favourite at The Plaza.
The Wiz @ Hope Mill Theatre
Wednesday 24th November – Sunday 16th January
The original Wiz that came out on Broadway back in the early 70s was a massive hit – winning Tony Award after Tony Award and generally being lauded upon by critics. Then came the disastrous movie featuring Diana Ross, Richard Pryor and Michael Jackson and it pretty much put the whole thing to bed for 40 years. This is the first brand-new production of The Wiz in over a decade, and it’ll be hitting up Hope Mill Theatre this Christmas.
Duckie at HOME
Wednesday 15th – Thursday 23rd December
Duckie is a reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling with a message of tolerance and self acceptance at its core. Family-friendly glamour and glitz takes centre stage in a fabulous children’s show originally created by cabaret superstar Le Gateau Chocolat. Set in an animal circus, we join Duckie on an adventure of self-discovery, asking questions of the ‘happy ever after’ in a celebration of difference.
The NQ Grotto @ Ducie Street Warehouse
4th, 11th, 18th and 19th December
A series of immersive Christmas performances at Ducie Street Warehouse, which will see Santa and his elves busy preparing for Christmas, where guests can dance with the Ice Princess, singalong with Mrs Claus, have story time with the Snow Queen, fun time with Brother & Sister Elves, and of course, meet Santa himself.
Sleeping Beauty @ Victoria Hall, Bolton
Tuesday 14th December – Sunday 2nd January
David Potts is a fella who is the Head Rep on Ibiza Weekender on ITV2 and he’ll be playing the role of the Fairy in Bolton’s Sleeping Beauty this Christmas. Joining him will be internet sensation Antonella Brollini (The Uncensored Reviewer) and a load of other people who have probably got more followers than you on Instagram. It’ll likely follow a similar storyline to the one in Oldham with Kerry Katona, or the Disney one – and should be a lot of fun for all the family.
Peter Pan @ Bolton Octagon
Friday 26th November – Sunday 9th January
The lad who never grows old and attempts to kill a disabled man who simply wants to help him and his feral friends, Peter Pan comes to the Bolton Octagon this December. A pantomime re-telling of the JM Barrie classic tale, expect fairies, crocodiles and pirates – plus plenty of music, mischief and magic.