‘He’s behind you!’ Love them or hate them, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a panto, and London has plenty to pick from…
Lead image: Dick Whittington and His Cat at Hackney Empire (photo: Robert Workman)
1 Dick Whittington and His Cat at Hackney Empire
23 November-5 January
The famous Hackney Empire panto returns with Dick Whittington and His Cat for 2019, promising its trademark magic and spectacle in a dazzling re-imagining of the classic rags-to-riches tale. The show stars Grande Dame Clive Rowe in his 13th Hackney panto appearance following an award-winning East End comeback last year. Rowe plays Sarah the Cook, alongside panto debuts from Tarinn Callender (Hamilton) as Dick Whittington and Annette McLaughlin as Queen Rat (Harry Potter and The Cursed Child). The cast also includes Hackney favourites Kat B and Tony Whittle as Vincent the Cat as Alderman Fitzwarren respectively, and welcomes Christina Tedders as Alice Fitzwarren and Sue Kelvin as Fairy Bowbells. Dick Whittington and His Cat, which marks a record 21st Christmas pantomime from Writer and Director Susie McKenna, with Original Music by Steven Edis. Tickets £10-£38.
Hackney Empire, 291 Mare Street E8 1EJ; hackneyempire.co.uk
2 Cinderella at New Wimbledon Theatre
7 December-5 January
Samantha Womack and Lesley Garrett face off as good and evil in Cinderella at New Wimbledon Theatre this year. Womack, the former EastEnders star who just emerged from a long run in the theatre version of The Girl on a Train, plays The Wicked Stepmother, while Garrett takes on The Fairy Godmother. Melody Thornton of the Pussycat Dolls takes on the role of Cinderella, while Pete Firman plays Buttons. So join Cinderella as she goes from rags to riches, outwits her wicked sisters and meets her dashing Prince Charming. Packed with all of the traditional pantomime ingredients of laugh-out-loud comedy, fab scenery, beautiful costumes and plenty of boos and hisses, you shall go to the ball this Christmas! Tickets from £13.
93 The Broadway, Wimbledon SW19 1QG; atgtickets.com
3 Sleeping Beauty at Greenwich Theatre
22 November-12 January
Greenwich Theatre’s pantos have quite the following, in no small part thanks to panto royalty Andrew Pollard, who writes and directs the annual sell-out show. This year, the theatre is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its reopening, so extra stops will be pulled out. Sleeping Beauty is the panto of choice – the tale of a sleeping princess, an unlikely hero, and even more unlikely villain. Pollard returns to take panto fans on a time-travelling, continent-hopping, gravity defying adventure that’s out of this world (with a few show-stopping events from 1969 thrown in for good measure). Tickets £30, concs £20, kids £15.50.
Crooms Hill, Greenwich SE10 8ES; greenwichtheatre.org.uk
4 Aladdin at Churchill Theatre Bromley
7 December-5 January
Enjoy a magic carpet ride at The Churchill Theatre in Bromley this panto season as they stage the timeless classic, Aladdin, this Christmas. Legendary panto stalwart Christopher Biggins will be joined by funny man Rikki Jay and hilarious ventriloquist Max Fulham, as well as The Band star Yazdan Qafouri in the title role of Aladdin, Emily Hawgood as Princess Jasmine, Emily Beth Harrington as Scheherazade and Derek Elroy as the Emperor. Yazdan Qafouri rose to fame a member of Five to Five, the boyband created as part of the BBC reality competition Let it Shine, where Gary Barlow sought a new boyband to star in The Band, the Take That musical. Aladdin marks Qafouri’s pantomime debut. The pantomime will also feature a live band and a juvenile ensemble from students of the local dance school, The Laura Bruce Dance Academy. Tickets £20-£43 (kids £4 off).
High Street, Bromley BR1 1HA; churchilltheatre.co.uk
5 Cinderella at Lyric Hammersmith
16 November-5 January
The Lyric’s annual Pantomime is now in its 11th year, having run every year since Richard Bean, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Joel Horwood and Ché Walker’s adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk opened in 2009, with Stephen Fry as the voice of the giant. Mel Giedroyc, Vikki Stone and Stevie Webb have all joined the Lyric’s Pantomime over the years to sing ‘Glory Glory Hammersmith’. This year, Cinderella will be lighting up the stage, played by actress and singer Timmika Ramsay (Madagascar the Musical, Storylab at Tricycle Theatre) alongside Shobna Gulati, best known for playing Sunita Alahan in Coronation Street, as Madame Meanie, and Rhys Taylor, whose recent work includes Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens at the Union Theatre, playing Fairy Fredbare. Tickets from £15 (£75 Family Tickets available for Cinderella.
Lyric Square, King Street, Hammersmith W6 0QL; lyric.co.uk
6 Beauty & the Beast at The Broadway Theatre, Catford
Soul singing legend Mica Paris takes to the stage in The Broadway Theatre’s 2019 pantomime, Beauty & the Beast. Follow the story of Belle who longs for romance and adventure, but has some terrible luck when she meets a bad-mannered prince who has been transformed into a beast to teach him a lesson – what are the chances? Fortunately there’s a good fairy around to make both their dreams come true. Impressive music, energetic dance routines, plenty and just the right amount of audience participation make a spectacular panto – with Paris’ dreamy vocals a bonus. Previous panto greats to tread the boards in Catford include Keith Chegwin, Lenny Henry, Shane Ritchie and Lulu. Tickets from £15.
Rushey Green, Catford SE6 4TU; broadwaytheatre.org.uk
7 The Nativity Panto – A Not-So Silent Night at King’s Head Theatre, Islington
29 November-11 January
The King’s Head Theatre welcomes back Charles Court Opera for their 13th Boutique Pantomime, and this year the humble nativity gets sprinkled with a generous helping of magic, whimsy and Christmas cheer to create their most joyous show yet. A cast of well-known characters will take the audience through an irreverent, yet respectful, adaptation of the Nativity story, with musical numbers, laughs and the unexpected. From adult-only evening performances (Thurs-Sat at 7pm) through to family matinees (Sat & Sun at 3pm), The Nativity Panto is perfect for parents and children, couples, groups of friends and office parties. The Nativity Panto will be directed by John Savournin with original music and lyrics by David Eaton, and choreography by Damian Czarnecki. Tickets £20-£30 (previews 29-31 November, £16), 10 and under £10.
115 Upper Street N1 1QN; kingsheadtheatre.com
8 Pinocchio: No Strings Attached at Above The Stag, Vauxhall
19 November-11 January
A decade into its celebrated programming of raucous adult pantomime, Above The Stag theatre offers up Pinocchio: No Strings Attached for 2019. Above The Stag pantomimes have developed a cult following, blossoming into a staple ‘must-see’ for the theatrically adventurous and LGBT+ friendly, regularly selling out. Following the narrative of the original story (with added nudge and winks galore), audiences are invited to sing, laugh and revel in a little obscenity as they watch this well-loved tale reimagined as a riotous adult panto where lonely puppet maker Geppetta (Matthew Baldwin) crafts herself a boy out of wood. But when a magic spell brings Pinocchio to life she gets more than she bargained for, and whenever this gay, gangly young man tells a lie, something very embarrassing happens… The cast also includes Christopher Lane and Briony Rawle, both of whom are regular stars of the long-running global phenomenon, Sh!tfaced Shakespeare. Tickets £28.
72 Albert Embankment, Vauxhall SE1 7TP; abovethestag.com
9 Cinderella at Fairfield Halls, Croydon
10 December-5 January
Cinderella is a popular pantomime this year, and Imagine Theatre and Fairfield Hall are offering an innovative new take on the rags-to-riches tale at the recently re-launched Croydon Fairfield Halls. Grace Chapman (recently seen in Mame at the Hope Mill Theatre) will star as Cinderella, and West End performer James Bisp (Phantom of the Opera, Spamalot, Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) will star as Prince Charming. They will join Ore Oduba, who is making his pantomime debut as Dandini, panto regular and comedian Tim Vine as Buttons, and CBeebies presenter Cat Sandion as Fairy Godmother. Panto regulars Jason Marc-Williams and Alistair Barron as the Ugly Sisters and Katie Cameron as the Wicked Stepmother, alongside a team of talented youngsters from Croydon, make up the rest of the cast. Will the evil Ugly Sisters thwart the path of true love for Cinderella and her Prince Charming or will her Fairy Godmother help save the day? Tickets from £15.
Phoenix Concert Hall at Croydon Fairfield Halls, Park Lane CR9 1DG; fairfield.co.uk
10 A Portobello Christmas Carol at The Tabernacle, Notting Hill
The Portobello Panto is a charitable production that relies on donations and dozens of volunteers to spread Christmas cheer across west London and raise money for valuable causes. Last year, Snow White and the Seven Runaways raised a record breaking £11,697 for three local charities – the Shepherds Bush Families Project, GLUE Tabernacle W11 and All Stars Boxing Gym. This year, All Stars Boxing Gym gives way to The Henry Dickens community centre, a small community centre that focuses primarily in providing support for Grenfell Tower survivors, as the third charity. The 2019 panto promises to be bigger and better than ever, with A Portobello Christmas Carol. Shows take place on 12, 13 & 14 December at 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee show at 2.30pm. Tickets are £17.50. This panto is sadly *sold out*, but to back this valuable fundraiser, see spacehive.com.
34-35 Powis Square, Notting Hill W11 2AY. To book see lineupnow.com
11 Peter Pan at Under the Bridge, Fulham
7, 8, 13 & 15 December
Following the success of last year’s musical comedy, The Snow Queen, Under The Bridge will once again transform into a family-friendly Christmas destination to host a revival of J.M. Barrie’s classic, Peter Pan. Join the boy who could fly on adventures packed with mermaids, pirates, fairies, crocodiles and everything in between in this original 60-minute production. It’s poignant, funny and fast-moving, and every child can get involved in the magic. Running three times a day from 11am on 7, 8, 13 & 15 December. Tickets start from £15.
Stamford Bridge, Fulham Road SW6 1HS; underthebridge.co.uk
12 The Snow Queen at Upstairs at the Sydenham Centre
30 November and 7 & 8 December
After its hugely popular Christmas shows in 2017 (The Snowman and the Christmas Fairy) and 2018 (Cinderella) Sydenham’s acclaimed professional theatre company is back this year with its most magical show yet. The Snow Queen is a ‘pay what you can panto’ for south London that’s suitable for families with children of all ages. Adapted by Lucy and Jonathan Kaufman from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, the story follows a young boy who is taken by the Snow Queen to her icy palace. His brave best friend, Gerda, sets out on a mission to rescue him, stumbling across argumentative crows, hapless robbers and a dancing snowman on her adventure. The cast includes Spontaneous regulars Shireenah Ingram as The Snow Queen, Hjalmar Nordén as Hans Christian Andersen, William Hastings as Kay and Jimand Allotey as Gerda. The production also contains original songs by composer Paul Tornbohm and dance routines choreographed by Hjalmar Nordén. Shows at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. Suggested minimum donation: £3 for adults, £2 for kids. Show lasts approx 30mins.
44a Sydenham Road SE26 5QX; spontaneousproductions.co.uk