It’s Christmas... so the popular Slade song goes.
And besides the food and drink, and festive TV specials, it’s the time of year when many of us first experience the thrill of live theatre.
The age-old tradition of pantomime still holds strong in the era of the computer game.
Families flock to theatres up and down the land, giving little ones a glimpse into magical lands, where a handsome prince always wins the fair maiden’s hand and good triumphs over evil.
Simple-yet-silly slapstick gags leave bellies aching as though you’ve tucked into turkey and all the trimmings, and true love conquers all in the ultimate tales of ‘Happy Every After’.
Forever traditional, Blackpool’s Grand Theatre is this year staging Sleeping Beauty, with TV star Jennifer Ellison heading the cast as the wicked fairy Carabosse, as well as local stars Hayley Kay and Steve Royle providing the glitter and gags.
Blackpool retains its place at the heart of variety in the UK, with many of our local performers and producers involved in some of the North West’s main productions for the season.
Among them is Tam Ryan, who joins the cast of Manchester’s Opera House pantomime for the fifth year –this time as Muddles in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, starring Priscilla Presley.
He said: “One thing you just can’t get away from is pantomime brings children in to the theatre.
“And that’s forever true.
“It’s such a technical world these days, that arts and theatre can get left behind but pantomime stimulates our trade as actors.
“And it’s a great bit of British culture. It’s truly ours – they just don’t have anything like it anywhere else in the world, they haven’t a clue.”
These days, there’s a new generation of festive offerings, which, while not actual pantomimes, provide a magical night at the theatre for all the family with some alternative takes on the traditional tales, as well as providing magic thanks to the wonders of modern technology.
One such example is Stageworks Worldwide Productions’ Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs at King George’s Hall in Blackburn, which promises an ‘interactive’ show that goes beyond the traditional ‘boo’, ‘hiss’ and ‘it’s behind you’ calls, allowing ‘children of all ages to enjoy the comedy sketches and jokes, join in the popular songs. Singing and dancing in the aisles is compulsory’.
Blackpool and Fylde:
Aladdin, Blackpool Tower Circus, until January 18.
Tower stars Mooky and Mr Boo present this festive treat, produced and directed by the legendary Endresz family, ‘with a whole host of incredible stunts, jaw-dropping feats and comedy capers, not to mention the world-famous water-finale’. Call: 0871 222 9929.
Aladdin, Lowther Pavilion, Thursday, December 11 to Tuesday, December 30
Use one of your three magic wishes to see this pantomime, starring former Coronation Street heartthrob Scott Wright, as the genie. Joining him in the title role are 22-year-old Jack Bradley, from Blackpool’s South Shore, an acting graduate of Blackpool and The Fylde College, while the Dame role of Widow Twankey is taken by Chris D’Bray, who started his showbusiness career at the former Pontins, Blackpool, and was a DJ at Blackpool’s Funny Girls nightspot.
Polka Dot Productions are bringing new scenery, new costumes and new faces in the professional cast, as well as plenty of audience participation that will keep audiences of all ages entertained and amused. Call: (01253) 794221
Cinderella, Marine Hall, Fleetwood, Thursday, December 11 until Sunday, December 14.
X Factor finalist Christopher Maloney stars as Prince Charming in this ‘much-loved tale filled with hilarious comedy, catchy songs and colourful dance routines’, with Reece Douglas, best known as Denzil in BBCs Waterloo Road, as Buttons and Nicola McAllister as Cinderella.
Call: (01253) 887693.
Sleeping Beauty, Grand Theatre, Blackpool. Friday, December 5 until Sunday, January 4.
Experience the thrill of live pantomime with this enchanting tale starring Jennifer Ellison, family favourite Steve Royle, Radio Wave’s Hayley Kay, and Any Dream Will Do’s Lewis Bradley.
In a land far, far away a beautiful princess is born and the King and Queen throw a huge celebration, inviting guests from all across the land to bestow gifts upon their beloved baby girl but while her Fairy Godmothers grant the gifts of beauty, wit and grace, wicked fairy Carabosse was not invited and places a curse on the tiny princess.
Find out if true love’s kiss will break the spell.
Call: (01253) 290190.
Aladdin, Liverpool Empire Theatre, Saturday, December 13 until Sunday, January 4.
City stars Ray Quinn and Claire Sweeney head the cast for this magical carpet ride to the Far East. A cave of wonders will transport families to the fairytale world, with guaranteed ‘delight at stunning sets and dazzling costumes’. Call: (0151) 702 7320
Alice In Wonderland, Bolton Octagon, until Saturday, January 10.
Visit a spectacular Wonderland, ‘packed full of magic’ with original songs performed live. Call: (01204) 520661.
Cinderella, Albert Halls, Bolton, until Saturday, January 3.
Blackpool producer Duggie Chapman is at the helm for this tale with the Harper Bros, sons of resort favourite Bobby Ball, as the Brokers’ Men. Call: (01204) 334400.
Cinderella, The Dukes, Lancaster, until Saturday, January 10.
The Dukes is throwing a party, and we’re all invited to this new take on a classic fairytale, when Ella’s family has hit hard times, featuring live music and songs as well as puppets and laughter – promising a ‘big-hearted theatrical treat’. Call: (01524) 598500.
Dick Whittington, Thwaites Empire Theatre, Blackburn, until Wednesday, January 3.
Take a ‘rollercoaster ride’ as Fairy Bowbells sets the scene for this tale, set to have more sparkle, more dazzle and more magic than you can ever imagine, staged by Blackpool-based Tim Lince on Pendle Productions. Call: (01253) 685500.
Jack And The Beanstalk, Liverpool Epstein Theatre, Thursday, December 11 to Sunday, January 4.
The Only Way Is Liverpool, for TV’s Dan Osborne who makes his panto debut as Jack in this production – which, for added glitz, also stars Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’s Thelma Madine in a fabulous frock of her own, for a ‘traditional pantomime with a fresh twist’. Call: 0844 888 4411.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong, The Lowry, Salford Quays, Tuesday, December 16 to Sunday, January 11.
Enjoy a family-friendly double bill featuring Peter Pan Goes Wrong, and, for the littlest theatre-lovers, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt. Both shows are ‘filled with fun, frolics and silliness’. Call: 0844 815 4873.
Red Riding Hood, Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, until Saturday, January 17.
The rock’n’roll panto comes home, with ‘more music, mayhem and water than ever before’ – for a new generation Red Riding Hood is ‘tooled up’, so the wolf had better beware. Call: (0151) 709 4776.
Shrek, Palace Theatre, Manchester, until Sunday, January 11.
Ex-EastEnders actor Nigel Harman directs this touring stage version of the hit film, that – although not a panto – takes place in a land jam-packed with fairytale characters of ogres and princesses, wise-cracking talking donkeys and pint-sized villains. Call: 0844 871 3018.
Slava’s Snowshow, The Lowry, Salford Quays, Tuesday, December 9 to Saturday, December 13.
Beautifully crafted theatrical clowning, combining the unbridled silliness of slapstick with lavish visual effects, and a finale that literally takes the breath away, leaving the audience knee deep in snow. Call: 0844 815 4873.
Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, King George’s Hall, Blackburn, Wednesday, December 10 to Wednesday, December 31.
Written by Lancashire funny man Phil Walker, the original Brothers Grimm story has been given a fresh twist for the 21st Century. Brought to you by Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s Stageworks Worldwide Productions, Liberty X star Kevin Simm is the dashing prince. Singing and dancing are compulsory in this interactive fairytale. Call: 0844 8471664.
Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, Opera House, Manchester, Friday, December 5 to Sunday, January 4.
Blackpool’s own Tam Ryan is back as Muddles, in this show which stars Priscilla Presley and Warwick Davis. It will ‘melt hearts with the traditional pantomime ingredients’. Call: 0844 871 3018.
Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, Charter Theatre, Preston, until Saturday, January 3.
With a venue clouded by uncertainty this year, fears of no panto in Preston have been put to one side by Blackpool impressario Duggie Chapman who is in charge for this tale starring Jimmy Cricket as Muddles and Blackpool performers Kirstina Castellina as Snow White and Pete Lindup as Sarah the Cook. Call: 01772 80 44 44.