By Adam Kirkham
The nights are drawing in, the temperature's been dropping, and the shops will soon be featuring red and green rather prominently... it can only mean one thing: Christmas is a coming! There are simply loads of things to look forward to this Christmas, but the very best Christmas present of all has got to be spending time with your loved ones. It may be a bit too early in the year to start all this Christmassy business but there's just something unparalleled about going to a Christmas show with your family or friends, experiencing the buzz of anticipation as it spreads through the audience, and feeling the nostalgia of seeing young children getting all over excited like you used to. If you're thinking of organising a family night out over Christmas, here's a 2016 panto guide with a mix of classic all time favourites and exciting new shows in town you need to look out for.
So, here are our top tips about the best Christmas shows to go and see
this year. There's something in here for everyone, whether you're from the south coast, the Scottish highlands, or anywhere in between:
Sleeping Beauty, Richmond TheatreMaureen Lipman makes a welcome return to Richmond's spectacular Panto as the Wicked Fairy. Joining her after two highly successful pantomimes at Richmond will be none other than CBeebies favourite Chris Jarvis in the role of Chester the Jester, returning for a third year in a row, due to overwhelming popular demand. Everyone's favourite Pantomine Dame Matthew Kelly returns to his role as one half of the Ugly Sisters, joined by his son, Actor Matthew Rixon. They're joined by BAFTA award winning actress Hayley Mills who makes her Panto debut as the Fairy Godmother. Be sure of belly laughs, magic by the wand-full and real Shetland ponies! Make sure you book your ticket soon, and you too shall go to the ball!
Dick Whittington, New Wimbledon TheatreThe Home of London Pantomime is thrilled to announce the strictly sensational Arlene Phillips CBE will make her pantomime debut in this year's Dick Whittington alongside the return of the side-splittingly hilarious Tim Vine and the best dame in the business, Matthew Kelly.
Million Dollar Quartet, Royal Festival Hall
Million Dollar Quartet will come to London's Royal Festival Hall this Christmas from Saturday 17th December 2016 to Monday 2nd January 2017. This rock 'n' roll musical is inspired by the recording session that brought together four music legends for the first and only time; Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.
Cinderella, London Palladium
Cinderella, the most enchanting rags-to-riches fairy tale of them all graces the stage of the West End's most famous theatre this Christmas as pantomime returns to the London Palladium for the first time in nearly 30 years. With an all-star cast, this lavish and spectacular production features sumptuous costumes, magnificent scenery and the unmissable and magical breath-taking moment when Cinderella swaps her rags for a stunning Ball gown and is transported to the Prince's Ball.
Cinderella, Bristol Hippodrome
This Christmas, the most magical pantomime of all Cinderella come to Bristol - and it's going to be even bigger and more spectacular than ever as national icons Torvill & Dean take to the stage as the Fairy Godparents.
Britain's most beloved sporting heroes bring their unique talents to The Bristol Hippodrome for the first time ever and will be wowing audiences with their amazing routines.
Snow White & the Seven Dwarves, New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to Woking we go for the spectacular family pantomime Snow White. Join us for the enchanting fairytale guaranteed to melt everyone's heart this Christmas.
The job of head dwarf Prof is a tall order but nothing that TV and film star Warwick Davis can't measure up to. Known to millions from his roles in Star Wars, the Harry Potter series and Willow, as well as TV comedy series Life's Too Short and Idiot Abroad 3, he will ensure that the pantomime won't be short of laughs this Christmas. Joining him is comedy favourite Andy Ford as the Henchman.
Jack and the Beanstalk, Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone
Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum! Jack better run, to the Leas Cliff Hall Folkestone for this GIANT of a Panto!
From the creative team behind past pantomimes such as Cinderella and Aladdin, comes this year's spectacular - Jack and the Beanstalk.
Cinderella, Princess Theatre, Torquay
Cinderella is coming its way to the Princess Theatre from 9th December to the 1st January with an all starring cast! Local boy Luke Friend (X Factor) is here to make his panto debut as the handsome Prince showing off his vocal talents. We have the return of the hilarious, lovable Aiden J Harvey and this year we welcome Tom Owen (Last of the Summer Wine) as ÃÂ¢Ã¢âÂ¬ÃÅBaron hard- up .In addition, joining the Torquay Pantomime team is the wonderful Anita Harris (Carry On), whose friendly face is back doing pantomime once again, at the Princess Theatre.
Aladdin, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
This year's dazzling family pantomime Aladdin will star Michelle Collins (EastEnders, Coronation Street) making wishes come true by bringing all the magic of the Christmas season to life as the Genie of the Lamp. Back by popular demand, panto fave and Bucks' very own funny man, Andy Collins, will join Michelle with his hugely popular hilarity as Aladdin's cheeky and mischievous brother, Wishee-Washee.
Making her panto debut as her princess namesake is stunning TOWIE beauty Jasmin Walia. And not to be outdone on the glamour stakes and making up this perfect panto line-up, prepare yourselves for larger-than-life 'Dame Extraordinaire' Britain's Got Talent's La Voix, bursting onto the stage as Aladdin's long suffering mum, Widow Twankey.
Dick Whittington, Milton Keynes Theatre
In the tale of Dick Whittington this year, Samantha Womack, Eastenders' feisty Ronnie Mitchell, will be swarming the streets of London with her rodent friends as the evil Queen Rat, whilst Loose Women panellist, X Factor finalist and winner of ITV's I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! Stacey Solomon will be picking up her magic wand this Christmas as Fairy Bowbells, whilst back to tickle your funny bones is MK favourite Kev Orkian
Loose Women and Benidorm favourite, and star of the all-new Are You Being Served?, Sherrie Hewson, will be appearing as The Genie of the Ring, opposite one of Manchester's best-loved actors, John Thomson (Cold Feet) as the evil Abanazar. Pop sensation Ben Adams (A1) will tread the boards as the title role, Aladdin, and to complete the line-up, writer, director and one of the best dames in the business, Eric Potts will star as Widow Twankey!
Cinderella, Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent
After last year's storming success Peter Pan, Jonathan Wilkes returns to The Regent Theatre once more, in the most famous panto of them all; Cinderella.
Joining Jonny will be beloved Panto favourite Christian Patterson and fellow funnyman Simon Nehan as the Ugly Sisters.
Join the dashing Prince Charming, the hideous ugly sisters, the lovable Buttons, the enchanting Fairy Godmother and of course, the beautiful Cinderella at the ball and make it a Christmas to remember for the whole family. Get your tickets now and help our Fairy Godmother spread some panto magic!
Snow White, Liverpool Empire
TV favourite Jorgie Porter* (Hollyoaks, I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!) will be making her pantomime debut as she heads up this year's cast in the title role of Snow White! Jorgie will be joined by Radio City 96.7 Breakfast Show's Leanne Campbell (a much-loved member of the Empire panto family, now in her fourth year) as the Wicked Queen, and back by popular demand is Liam Mellor as the lovable comic, Muddles.
Snow White, Southport
Mirror Mirror on the wall, what is the best treat of them all? A visit to the magical pantomime Snow White of course! Come and see all your favourite characters, including the beautiful Snow White, the dashing Prince Michael and the evil Wicked Queen, as well as the hilarious Jingles the Jester and Dame Dolly Mixture.
Aladdin, Grand Opera House, York
Grand Opera House York is getting ready for the arrival of our biggest and best pantomime. Three Bears Productions will be flying in this Christmas with Aladdin, starring Suzanne Shaw, (Hear'Say) as the beautiful Princess Jasmine, Paul Sinha (ITV's The Chase) in the role of Abanazar, Debbie McGee, Carl Tracey (Nick Jr Go!Go!Go!), Frazer Hines (Emmerdale, Doctor Who) as The Emperor and Stuart Wade as Wishee Washee.
Sleeping Beauty, Sunderland Empire
Star of stage and screen Vicky Entwistle (Coronation Street, Les MisÃÂ©rables, The Vagina Monologues) is set to reveal a wicked side when she takes on the evil role of Carabosse, alongside actress and Ã¢â¬ËSteps' star Faye Tozer, who is set to sparkle as the Good Fairy and children's TV favourite Andrew Agnew (CBeebies, Balamory), who returns to Sunderland following his triumphant panto performance in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 2014, in the role of Silly Billy and also as director of this year's pantomime!
Joining them is Amy-Leigh Hickman as Princess Briar Rose, who is best known for playing Carmen in the popular CBBC series Tracy Beaker, plus spin off series The Dumping Ground and more recently as Linzi Bragg in Eastenders. The line-up is completed by special guest star and legend of radio, screen and stage, Bobby Crush (Opportunity Knocks, Benidorm, The Rocky Horror Show, Chicago) as Nurse Kelly.
Scottish Ballet Hansel and Gretel, King's Theatre, Glasgow
If you fancy visiting the magical world of ballet, unwrap a tasty new Christmas treat with Scottish Ballet's fantastical Hansel & Gretel.
In a small town, all the children have disappeared. Plucky Hansel and Gretel embark on an exciting adventure venturing deep into the enchanted forest to find their friends. This delightfully inventive brand new Hansel & Gretel takes creative twists and turns inspired by the Grimm Brother's famous fairy tale - and the stories and imagination of the people of Scotland. A carousel of delicious treats from start to finish, Hansel & Gretel is full to the brim with magic and wit; with toys that come to life and a beautiful bewitching ballerina who is not at all as she seems.
Scrumptiously surreal and with more than a sprinkle of festive magic - take an enchanting journey with Scotland's national dance company this winter.