Going to the Panto? Oh yes you are…
It’s Panto time. Oh yes it is. (Come on, get in the mood!). And where is your ultimate guide to the best pantos this Christmas? It’s behind you! Actually, no it isn’t. It’s in the list below.
This year in Panto-land, there’s the usual array of soap stars, TV C-listers and the occasional real celeb. So here’s my definitive guide to the season’s best pantos in Kent and beyond. Choose your poison, and make sure you go!
Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs, The Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells, Fri 9 Dec to Mon 2 Jan
National treasure, comedienne, actress and TV presenter Su Pollard stars as the Wicked Queen (this is her 37th panto – 37th!!), alongside children’s TV favourite Jamie Rickers as Muddles the Jester and regular panto princess Millie Booth. Always a well put together production with some decent laughs. I heard it from Su herself that the Wicked Queen tries to seduce Prince Charming and pulls out all the stops – something to keep the adults amused too. Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho – stilettos on and out you go!
Dick Whittington, The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, Fri 25 Nov – Sun 8 Jan
You only have to look at the name you you know you have to steel yourself for a gazillion double-entredres with this one. With TV presenter Stephen Mulhern in the lead role (if you don’t recognise the name, you’ll definitely recognise the face) and even Vladimir Georgievsky (remember the guy doing that crazy trampolining act on Britain’s Got Talent?) More fun than you can shake a handkerchief-hanging-from a stick at.
Sleeping Beauty, Stag Theatre, Sevenoaks, Fri 2 Dec – Sun 8 Jan
Eastenders’ Ricky Norwood stars alongside panto fairies from 90’s pop sister act Cleopatra, (Comin’ Atcha! remember them? Aw, come on. It can’t be just me – stretch your mind back!) Always a good panto this one – particularly good on the pop songs and dance routines and gets people grooving in the aisles (what, just me again?)
Snow White and the seven dwarfs The Orchard Theatre, Dartford, Sat 10 – Sat 31 Dec
Another performance of this old favourite, this time in Dartford. I think it’s fair to say that Joe Pasquale, who is playing the role of Muddles in this production, was born for pantomime. Expect lots of silliness and squeaky voices.
Jack and The Beanstalk, The Central Theatre, Chatham, Thur 8 – Sat 31 Dec
Fee-fi-fo-fum… Olympic gold medallist and Dancing on Ice star, Robin Cousins heads an all-star cast as the Evil Fleshcreep, and is joined by CBBC favourite Hannah-Jane Fox as Fairy Fuschia. Simple Simon is played by Joe Tracini of Hollyoaks fame and son of well-loved local star Joe Pasquale, (currently starring in panto at Dartford!) and King Cuthbert of Stoneybroke is played by Graham Cole, for the oldies like me, who will remember him as PC Tony Stamp on The Bill!
Sleeping Beauty, Hazlitts Arts Centre, Maidstone, Fri 2 Dec – Mon 2 Jan
Ex-Eastenders actress (and she of reality TV shows Strictly and The Jump) stars in this fairytale classic – cursed teens, Wicked Queens and True Love’s kiss… You know the drill. Lots of laughs and silliness along the way.
Peter Pan, Theatre Royal Margate, Sat 10 Dec – Sat 31 Dec
Peter Pan always makes for a great panto – and happily appeals as much to boys as girls – loads of great characters and, if you’re lucky, the cast fly around on wires. Be swashed and buckled and fall hook, line and sinker for all the silliness and laughter you’ve come to expect from the Margate panto.
AND IF YOU WANT AN ALTERNATIVE…
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells, Thu 15 Dec – Mon 2 Jan
Escape all the slapstick and soak up the more sophisticated magical musical version of this classic tale. This lush production features a live orchestra, transformations and all the classic moments – the pumpkin, the glass slipper, and the masked ball! Discover some of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s most beloved songs, including In My Own Little Corner, Impossible and Ten Minutes Ago in this fun and romantic musical. And not a Widow Twanky in sight!
A Christmas Carol, The Oast Theatre, Tonbridge, Wed 14 – Sat 17 Dec
London, 1843: Christmas Eve, a miser, three spirits, fog, much humbug, a goose and Tiny Tim asking God to ‘Bless us, everyone’. A feast of family entertainment, full of well-known characters and an ideal way to start the festive season. A great classic Christmas tale that stands on its own without the silliness and soap stars.
Dick Whittington – New Wimbledon Theatre, Wimbledon – Fri 9 Dec to Sun 15 Jan
Oooooh, this one looks good. Seasoned dame Matthew Kelly wigs up again for this panto that’s billed as the loudest, brashest and glitziest panto out there. Former Strictly judge Arlene Phillips makes her panto debut, and Tim Vine is also in the cast.
Cinderella – London Palladium, Soho – Sat 10 Dec to Sun 15 Jan
OK, I’ve changed my mind, this one looks even better. Paul O’Grady is the Wicked Stepmother, Amanda Holden is the Fairy Godmother, Julian Clary is Dandini, Lee Mead is Prince Charming, Nigel Havers is Lord Chamberlain and Count Arthur Strong is Baron Hardup. It’s the first panto in almost 30 years to grace the stage at the Palladium, and they’re giving all they’ve got. I’m totally in.
Sleeping Beauty, Hackney Empire, London, Sat 26 Nov – 8 Jan
The Hackney Empire panto is one of the most famous in London, having gone from rough and ready eastenders to the land of the beards and iphone7s. Susie McKenna and Steve Edis promise to bring this traditional fairytale bang up to date in its beautiul Victorian Theatre. No big names that I recognise (but I’ll stand corrected if you bellow at me!) but the Hackney Empire panto is always one of the most pro.