Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Pantomime Preview | 2018

As November approaches the final preparations are under way for Pantomime across the country with the first show opening on 10th November at the Oldham Coliseum Theatre with Cinderella and running at some venues  like the Theatre Royal York until 2nd February 2019, and  the anticipation grows for this fantastic family festive entertainment. It once again promises to be another brilliant season with the return of old favourites and some wonderful big names being signed up for their first Pantomimes ( hope there are ready for 50 plus shows , twice a day!). Whether you plan to see your local show or venture further afield to a see one of the big productions, you are guaranteed a noisy, fun filled show with so many great traditions maintained and enhanced.

London Palladium (last year's GB Pantomime  award winner (1500 seats plus) presentsSnow Whitefrom 8th December with a debut performance from Dawn French plus returning stars Julian Clary, Nigel Havers , Charlie Stemp  (best leading male in 2018) and Gary Wilmot after their success last year. It promises to be the biggest pantomime spectacular of them all and expect more flying objects over the audience and risqué adult humour, most of which goes over children’s heads!

Hackney Empire is another with a strong tradition of pantomime now celebrating its 20th anniversary production. This year it is Aladdin opening on 24th November with the wonderful Clive Rowe returning to the venue with Susie Mckenna directing and Steven Edis composing for their 20th show together.

Woking has Paul Chuckle back with Craig Revel Horwood after the very sad death of his brother Barry Chuckle earlier this year. The legendary brothers won best double act last year's awards after 50 years of pantomime together and it is bound to be a poignant season for Paul and all his fans this year in Cinderella. It opens on 7th December.

Up the A3 in Wimbledon, it's Aladdin with Paul Merton making his pantomime debut on 8th December as Widow Twankey with the magician Pete Firman. This grand venue is the home of GB Pantomime Awards whose awards show returns to the venue next April.

Just across the Wimbledon Common at the wonderful Richmond Theatreis Peter Pan with another debutant Robert Lindsay as Captain Hook opening on 8thDecember. These smaller Victorian theatres (Frank Matcham built it in 1899) are the perfect intimate setting for traditional pantomime.

The Salisbury Playhouse presents Beauty and Beast opening on 1stDecember. After the tragic incidents in the city over the last twelve months; it will surely be great to see the city buzzing with excitement over this year’s show. Last year's pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk was the pantomime of the year (under 75O seats) at GB Panto Awards showing what can be achieved with a strong team ethic and a creative production team. It opens on 1stDecember.

Birmingham Hippodrome offers Peter Pan from 19thDecember to 27thJanuary 2019  with seventies heartthrob Jimmy Osmond and comedian Matt Slack, who last year took the traditional songsheet to a new level when he dropped young Nicholas into the orchestra pit when he gave him some cheek. Expect spectacular effects with huge crocodiles and other magic from TwinFX.

The Mayflower in Southampton presents Dick Whittington from 15th
December in the newly redecorated venue. It has my favourite Dame Andrew Ryan and the wonderful Bobby Davro so expect some saucy laughs. No doubt the show will feature the fabulous double bus from TwinsFx flying again over the audience as it did last year in this title at the London Palladium.

At Bath Theatre Royal is Peter Pan opening on 13th December with the veteran musical comedy star Paul Nicholas as Hook, local favourite Jon Monie who has really grown in stature over the years and with the hapless Nitwits as the crew.

In Derby Arenait is Jack and the Beanstalk opening on 8thDecember with Duncan James as Jack and Lawrence Boothman (last year’s GB Pantomime best baddie award winner) as Cess Pitt. Last year it won Best Staging and Set at the awards and designer Morgan Brind stars as Dame Trot this year.

In Manchester Opera houseis the most glittering and best known title Cinderellaopening on 8thDecember with Gareth Gates as Prince Charming and Les Dennis and Connor Mcintyre (from Coronation Street) as the Ugly sisters.

York Theatre Royalpromises to be a very memorable and emotional year as it is expected to be Berwick Kaler last year as Dame after 39 seasons in the pantomine Grand Old Dameopening 13thDecember.  This is a unique show in every way with people returning year after year on stage and in the audience and usually contains the most spectacular “slosh” scene you will see this season.

Up in Scotland, the magnificent Elaine C Smith, the GB pantomime award winner for best Fairy, returns to the Glasgow Kings Theatre inAladdin as Widow Twankey from 1stDecember.

And inBelfast Grand Opera House is Jack and the beanstalk from 1stDecemberwith Mary McFettridge as Dame Trot for her 29th year and the amazing David Bedella as Fleshcreep.

If you want the old tradition of a female principle boy which sadly is less frequent these days then the Lighthouse Theatre Kettering has Aladdin with the lovely Lisa Mathieson in the title role and last year’s GB pantomime Award choreography winners Twist and Pulse as PC’s Hip and Hop.

If you want to see the more unusual titles of Mother Goose you will need to go to the Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury from 28th November or Robinson Crusoe is at The Greenwich Theatre from 23rd November or Robin Hood at Milton Keynes (where Shane Ritchie repeats his success at Mayflower Southampton and Woking), Nottingham Playhouse and the Regent Theatre in Stoke (where Johnny Wilkes returns).

There are hundreds of pantomimes around the country, most running for three or four weeks twice a day so there are plenty of opportunities to take the whole family for this special Christmas treat and you are guaranteed a lively fun time that I hope reminds everyone of the joy of live theatre.

Pocket Size theatre will bring you reviews of some of the best British pantomimes this year.

Preview written by Nick Wayne
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