Celebrities in pantos - who's going where?
John Barrowman, Beverley Knight and Al Murray all bolster the panto presence across the country
Panto season is fast approaching, with star-studded festive performances running across the UK. But which celebs will be donning Twankey's costume this year? Who is returning for a second season of sequins? And will it be as fabulous and colourful as ever? (Oh yes it will!)
London Palladium, 9 December to 14 January
After their first pantomime in 29 years last year, the Palladium redelivers with one most star-packed pantos going, juggling West End names with TV celebrities. With WhatsOnStage Award winner Charlie Stemp taking on the titular role of Dick Whittington (ahead of a Broadway debut), and Julian Clary also playing the Master of the Bells, the show will also see turns from Ashley Banjo, Emma Williams, Diversity, Nigel Havers, Gary Wilmot and Paul Zerdin. Oh and Elaine Page is playing a rat, because, you know, why not.
Birmingham Hippodrome, 19 December to 28 January
While the capital may be the pride of panto season, the UK's second city also delivers a weighty line-up for its newest version of Cinderella. Beverley Knight, making her panto debut no less, Danny Mac, Matt Slack and Suzanne Shaw all feature, while Ceri Dupree and Phil Randall, two of the most famous ugly sisters, give the show greater heft.
Churchill Theatre, Bromley, 2 December to 31 December
EastEnders star Jessie Wallace starred as Maid Marion alongside Shane Richie last year in Robin Hood, but this time she's going solo in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, assuming the mightily fabulous role of the Wicked Queen. Dame veteran Jason Sutton plays Nurse Nancy, while The Magicians frontman Pete Firman plays Muddles.
Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, 15 December to 7 January
British entertainment's busiest man Craig Revel Horwood (starring in Annie and directing Son of a Preacher Man) is re-donning his sequinned shoes to star as the Wicked Queen in this adaptation of Snow White. The Chuckle Brothers will make an appearance and, if that isn't enough (and from me to you it's already quite good), Britain's Got Talent finalists Flawless will also appear.
Opera House, Manchester, 9 December to 7 January
After a barnstorming run at the Birmingham Hippodrome last year (you can read our review of the show here), John Barrowman is returning to this Dick Whittington, but this time slightly further north than 2016. The Krankies will also star in the run, which sees the titular Dick Whittington ascend to the lofty position of town mayor.
New Wimbledon Theatre, 9 December to 14 January
Swapping pints for panto, comedian and actor Al Murray will make his debut in Jack and the Beanstalk at the New Wimbledon Theatre this winter, bolstered by the stage presence of Olivier Award-winner Clive Rowe (moving away from his regular Hackney haunt and travelling south of the Thames).
Theatre Royal Nottingham, 9 December to 14 January
His The Bodyguard co-star may be performing in Birmingham, but Ben Richards will also be treading the panto boards this season for Beauty and the Beast. The show will also star TV veteran Sherrie Hewson and Andrew Ryan as the dame. Ryan will also direct the production, in what marks his fourth appearance at the Theatre Royal.
Cliffs Pavilion, Southend-on-Sea, 16 December to 7 January
Panto regulars Lee Mead and Stacy Solomon take the starring roles in Jack and the Beanstalk, made all the more special by the fact both are Essex-born performers. They are joined by Bobby Davro, who plays Simple Simon, and Coronation Street's Robert Askwith, who plays the ever-disconcertingly-named villain Fleshcreep. Oh and the show has a 'spectacular 3D sequence which will transport audiences to the Giant's magical kingdom', which may upstage all the celebs anyway.
Lyric Hammersmith, 18 December to 8 January
The Lyric pantomime has become a regular West London feature, and this year is set to be no different with a bumper cast now including original Cursed Child cast member Cherrelle Skeete as the Fairy Godmother and comedian Vikki Stone as Fleshcreep. It's apt that Stone is playing a wicked character, as her hairpiece seems to be defying gravity.
Wolverhampton Grand, 9 December to 14 January
Since moving to musical theatre, Gareth Gates has become something of a West End veteran with roles in Joseph, Les Mis and Footloose. He stars here as another Jack climbing up his titular Beanstalk, joined by returning Lisa Riley as the fairy and Ian Adams as Dame Trott.