Too Early for Panto? Oh No It Isn’t …

By Johnny Fox Last edited 31 months ago

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Too Early for Panto? Oh No It Isn’t …
Trevor Dion Nicholas, the genius genie in Aladdin

This isn’t an exhaustive list because there’ll be a panto somewhere in practically every postcode come December, but it is a rundown of your options – financial and artistic – for a special Christmas outing. Some of our reviewers averaged six pantomimes last year, so we’re already adopting the ‘brace’ position…

In each case, we give the current price [October 2016] for a typical midweek December evening for two adults and two children in a ‘medium’ stalls ticket category, and a link to the official lowest-cost ticketing site: agencies will charge more.

The blockbusters

It’s a straight fight between Aladdin and Cinderella – the Disney Aladdin has been in residence at the Prince Edward Theatre since June with an Alan Mencken score and tiptop production values. No cast changes yet announced, so you can hope to see the fabulous Trevor Dion Nicholas as Genie, alongside Dean John-Wilson and ex-Sugababe Jade Ewen as Aladdin and his princess. Tickets here. £287

Cinderella opens at the Palladium on 10 December for ten weeks and the casting proves that while kids may love panto, it’s their grans who buy the tickets – most of the lead names are truly vintage: Paul O’Grady, Julian Clary and Nigel Havers won’t mean much to the average eight-year-old. Even Lee Mead as Prince Charming is more likely to flutter the heart of your mum than your sister. Good news that Sheridan Smith’s talented stand-in Natasha J Barnes is to play Cinders and finally gets to go to the ball in her own right. Tickets here. £300

The four horsemen of the Palladium apocalypse

The reliable standards   

ATG Theatres and its partner First Family Entertainment have the formula practically frozen, and recycling scripts, stars and sequins around regional theatres means high gloss without West End ticket prices. We like the Wimbledon offering best – it’s the biggest and grandest Frank Matcham theatre outside the West End, it’s in zone 3, has a solid dame in Matthew Kelly, the perfect London-based story in Dick Whittington, and a great atmosphere. Tickets here. £136.85

Maureen Lipman demonstrates pantomime-ology to Chris Jarvis

The almost equally lovely but more intimate theatre at Richmond (zone 4) welcomes Maureen Lipman as the wicked fairy in its Sleeping Beauty with Chris Jarvis from CBeebies to please the kids. There’s little more heartening than the procession of excited little ones from Richmond station on their first ever visit to a theatre. Both Wimbledon and Richmond have a lot of matinees and early evening shows to avoid tears before bedtime. Richmond tickets here. £140

Off the grid

London has seen countless productions of Peter Pan, and J M Barrie did set it firmly in Bloomsbury, but Greenwich Theatre is taking a more radical, musical theatre approach, with a dame played by writer and director Andrew Pollard and a cartoonish Captain Hook in Anthony Spargo. It’s one of the first out of the starting blocks, too, running from November 18, and has one of the best concession policies with all child tickets half price. Tickets here. £88

Roy Hudd shares a hundred-year-old joke about stuffing with Mother Goose

In over a hundred years, Wilton’s Music Hall has never staged a traditional family Christmas pantomime. Mother Goose will feature comedian Roy Hudd, basing his performance on the famous Victorian comic Dan Leno who pioneered stand-up comedy in the East End, and for whom the panto Mother Goose was first written in 1902. Hudd is a notable expert on music hall as well as a consummate showman, and this should be a rare treat.  Tickets here. £112

… And Hackney Empire

After Diane Abbott MP, the most famous Hackney landmark has to be the Empire’s Christmas Pantomime. Now a time-honoured tradition of diversity casting with the traditional cross-dressing format and freshly scripted every season by the award-winning Hackney team of Susie McKenna and Steve Edis. Gavin Stokes — recently Nicely-Nicely in Guys and Dolls — is Nanny Nora to Alexia Khadime’s Sleeping Beauty, while as dark fairy Carabosse the wonderful voice of Sharon D Clarke promises blues in the night. Tickets here. £110

Alexia Khadime (sleeping) and Sharon D Clarke (terrifying the whatnot out of children)

Last Updated 13 October 2016