Which panto will you be seeing this Christmas? Full guide to Christmas shows in Suffolk and Essex
- Credit: Archant
What a choice! Pantos or Christmas shows will be on at well over a score of venues across the region this festive season.
There promises to be something for the kids of all ages and for the adults who, like Peter Pan, don’t intend to ever grow up completely. Our list of what’s on and where means that happy songs and crazy laughter are just a simple call away.
Ipswich Regent, 20 December – 3 January
Maureen Nolan, one of the famous singing sisters, is the Fairy Godmother waving the magic wand that changes the life of hard-done-by Cinders in this traditional pantomime.
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The scene that transforms the mice and the pumpkin into a beautiful coach and horses is a never-failing wonder.
Gabrielle Green, who plays Katrina in CBBC’s Wolfblood, is Cinderella and she can expect a really rotten time from the Ugly Sisters. But, not to worry because her good friend Buttons will be there to bring a modicum of comfort.
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He will also make sure she is not missed when royalty comes calling with the glass slipper that Cinders has rather carelessly dropped in her headlong dash down the palace steps after the ball.
And Prince Charming, in the shape of Lee Latchford-Evans from Steps, will sing her off to a life of regal love and luxury.
The Tinder Box
The Seckford Theatre, Woodbridge, 17-20 December and then on tour.
No Christmas is complete these days without a show from Pat Whymark and Julian Harries – and this year there are two. Their Mystery of St Finnigan’s Elbow moves from the Sir John Mills to the Seckford in January.
The Tinder Box is a hilarious alternative yuletide offering suitable for children over six but, as we are well aware, these madcap shows are geared to involve all ages and this one is their take on a Hans Christian Andersen favourite with Julian Harries in the cast.
A soldier returning from war meets a witch who promises him gold if he helps her retrieve an old tinder box from a huge hollow tree.
Inside he meets the guardians of the box and the gold – three enormous dogs with eyes as big as saucers.
Can he trick his way to fortune?
He later hears of a princess confined by her parents to a tower to avoid the prophecy that she would marry a common soldier!
So he sets off to try and ignite her love for him.
Will there be sparks between them or just a damp squib?
Touring to Walton, Aldeburgh and the Wolsey Studio. More details are available in the list of pantos.
Norwich Theatre Royal, 18 December – 18 January
Kevin Kennedy, best known as the unlucky-in-love Curly Watts in Coronation Street, is the fearsome Captain Hook.
He can’t wait to take the stage because “playing a baddy is a new experience and it’s one of the best parts in panto to play.”
Joining him is CBeebies presenter Sid Sloane, who will have a fabulous selection of frocks as Aunt Delilah, and Norwich Royal mainstay Richard Gauntlett is Smee as well as taking a major part in things behind the scenes as both writer and director.
Also returning is Ruth Betteridge (last year’s Cinderella) as Wendy, and two members from the UK hit tourer, West Side Story, Charlotte Baptie and Sinead Kenny, as Peter Pan and Tiger Lily.
A number of local boys take on the roles of John and Michael Darling with the Panto Babes coming from the Norwich-based Central School of Dancing and Performing Arts.
Norwich Maddermarket, 19 December – 3 January
Charles Way has adapted Mary Norton’s story for the stage to make the show a heart-warming treat for children of six and over – and, of course, for the older “human beans”.
It is directed by Peter Sowerbutts with additional puppetry work by Zannie Frazer.
It’s the adventurous tale of the tiny Clock family who live beneath the floorboards of a large Victorian house and, in order to survive, “borrow” from the normal folk who live above them.
But danger comes when the big boy staying in the house discovers their presence and their lives change forever.
Norwich Playhouse, 16 – 20 December
Something completely different for those who don’t fancy panto with Threshhold Theatre Company’s version of the all-singing, all-dancing West End and Tony-winning Broadway hit.
It’s 1962 and change is in the air.
Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, has only one passion – dancing.
She wins a spot on The Corny Collins Show and, overnight, is transformed into a celebrity.
But can Tracy get her shy mother out of the apartment, beat Amber to be crowned Miss Hairspray and win the love of local heartthrob, Link Larkin, without denting her hair-do? If anyone can, Tracy can!
Jack and the Beanstalk
Haverhill Arts Centre, 19 – 28 December
In this one, the intrepid Jack falls in love with the beautiful Jill and sets about ridding Haverhill of a scary giant and the villainous Fleshcreep. Among those in the cast are soap star Amy Forrest and the West End’s Mitchell Armstrong.
The popular Howie Watkins, from the Really Wild Show, is back – this time as Dame Sarah Trott. And, in a colourful show, Fairy Fortuna and Daisy the Cow will provide plenty of fun and laughter.
Bungay Fisher, 19 – 27 December
This old favourite, first staged as panto in Drury Lane in 1871, doesn’t get as many outings these days but seems to be making a bit of comeback. Daniel Defoe’s story of the man stranded for years on an uninhabited island with only Man Friday for company becomes even more enthralling when a few other characters are introduced.
When the adventurous Robinson Crusoe is shipwrecked, he has more than discovering new lands and treasures on his mind because, apart from the hilarious Man Friday, there’s the mysterious and beautiful Princess Moonflower and the wicked pirate Captain Hogwash to deal with.
Puss in Boots
Stowmarket Regal, 17 – 21 December
Another pantomime that goes back a long way. When it was first produced in 1818 with the famous clown Grimaldi in the cast, the audience rioted because they didn’t go for the idea of a cat wearing three-league boots in the leading role and demanded it be taken off. But it survived to eventually become popular. No fear of a riot here – except, perhaps, to get the tickets! The last two Stowmarket Operatic and Dramatic Society pantos have been sell-outs!
Not Until We Are Lost Cambridge Corn Exchange, 18 – 21 December
Another alternative to panto. In this one the artists appear on a specially designed structure with the action unfolding around and above the audience. Capacity is limited to 300 at each show. Suitable for all the family, it will appeal to those who enjoy dance, movement, aerial theatre, circus skills and choral singing. Afternoon and evening performances.
Snow White on Ice
Chelmsford Riverside, 17 – 21 December
This version covers the traditional story of lovely Snow White, her wicked, envious stepmother and the magic mirror but it is done with grace and elegance – and sometimes at great speed – on flashing ice skates.
These shows, with great music and costumes, have become very popular, involving many of the top young ice dancers from the area and further afield.
Where to see and book them
• Ipswich New Wolsey: Beauty and the Beast, until 31 January. 01473 295900; wolseytheatre.co.uk.
• Ipswich Wolsey Studio: Dogs Don’t Do Ballet, until 3 January; The Tinder Box, 6 -10 Jan. 01473 295900; wolseytheatre.co.uk.
• Ipswich John Mills: The Mystery of St Finnigan’s Elbow, until 10 January. 01473 211498; easternangles.co.uk.
• Ipswich Regent: Cinderella, 20 December – 3 January 01473 433100; ipswichregent.com.
• Ipswich Jerwood DanceHouse: Butterflies, until 22 December 01473 295230; danceeast.co.uk.
• Snape Maltings: Christmas Spectacular In Neverland (Co-op Juniors), until 21 December 01728 687110; coopjuniors.co.uk.
• Aldeburgh Jubilee: The Tinder Box (Common Ground), 1 – 3 January 07928 765153.
• Woodbridge Seckford: The Tinder Box (Common Ground), 17 -20 December; The Mystery of Finnigan’s Elbow (E Angles), 13 – 24 Jan. 07928 765153.
• Walton St Mary’s Hall: The Tinder Box (Common Ground), 27 – 30 December 07928 765153.
BURY ST EDMUNDS
• Bury Theatre Royal: Cinderella, til 11 January 01284 769505; theatreroyal.org.
• Lowestoft Marina: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 16 December – 3 January 01502 533200; marinatheatre.co.uk.
• Bungay Fisher: Robinson Crusoe, 19 – 27 December 01986 897130.
• Sudbury Quay: Little Red Riding Hood, until 28 December 01787 374745; quaytheatre.org.uk.
• Haverhill Arts: Jack and the Beanstalk, 19 -28 December 01440 714140; haverhillartscentre.co.uk.
• Stowmarket Regal: Puss in Boots, 17-21 December regalstowmarket.co.uk.
• Norwich Royal: Peter Pan, 18 Dec – 18 January 01603 630000; theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk.
• Norwich Playhouse: Hairspray (Threshold TC), 16 – 20 December 01603 598598; norwichplayhouse.co.uk.
• Norwich Maddermarket: The Borrowers, 19 December - 3 January 01603 620917; email@example.com
• Cambridge Arts: Aladdin, until 11 January 01223 503333; cambridgeartstheatre.com.
• Cambridge Corn Exchange: Not Until We Are Lost, 18 – 21 December; cornex.co.uk.
• Colchester Mercury: Cinderella, until 11 January. 01206 573948; mercurytheatre.co.uk.
• Clacton Princes: Jack and the Beanstalk, until 3 January. 01255 686633.
• Chelmsford Civic: Peter Pan, until 4 January. 01245 606505; chelmsford.gov.uk/theatres.
• Chelmsford Riverside: Snow White on Ice 17 -21 December. 01245 615089; Chelmsford.gov.uk/iceshow.