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14 Christmas shows to see that aren't panto

While panto is all well and good, why not try some of these shows?

Clockwise from top left: Sink the Pink, Swan Lake, Horrible Histories and Hansel and Gretel

While panto geese, sing-a-longs and sequins can mean festive fun in spades, something a bit more different is always good – variety, as they say, is the spice of life! So here we've picked a load of fun shows to treat yourselves to this Christmas. Just a side note – we haven't included any of the many Christmas Carols that are running in this list – more on that later!

14. Swan Lake

No Christmas is complete without a Matthew Bourne classic at Sadler's Wells, and this year marks the return of the award-winning Swan Lake, based on Tchaikovsky's iconic music. The show won an Olivier Award when it first opened, so seeing it back in London is nothing short of a gift. Sadler's Wells, 4 December to 27 January

13. Peter Pan

Versailles leading man Alexander Vlahos turns from Parisian to pirate in a new production of Peter Pan at the Park Theatre, which for the very first time will feature aerial work at the north London venue. We are very intrigued to see what the results will be. Park Theatre, 5 December to 5 January

12. Briefs Close Encounters

Leicester Square is turning up the heat this chilly winter with a raucous, slick and high-octane production slap bang in the centre of London. Brief's Close Encounters, which has been wowing audiences for a long-while, is a festive staple and it'll be great to see it back for another run. Leicester Square from 9 November

11. Sleeping Beauty

Chichester's festive production has become a firm annual fixture and this year is no exception, with the Youth Theatre reviving Rufus Norris' 2002 version of Sleeping Beauty. Directed by Lucy Betts, the show is based on the classic fairy tale with some flashy designs to zhuzh it up in time for Christmas. Chichester Festival Theatre, 15 to 30 December

10. Hansel and Gretel

We loved the youth theatre production of Alice in Winterland at Rose Theatre last year, so are excited to see what the Kingston venue has in store for its 2018 festive outing (again written by written by Ciaran McConville), based on the classic sweet-filled story. Rose Theatre Kingston, 6 December to 6 January

9. Horrible Histories: Horrible Christmas

That most beloved of book series (and the resultant TV show) continues its venture into stage production with this yuletide show, which explores Christmases throughout history. The family-friendly piece also has some very exciting digs for December, being the first show to run at the brand new reopening Alexandra Palace Theatre. Alexandra Palace, 13 to 30 December

8. The Showstoppers Christmas Kids Show

The Showstoppers has long been a sure-bet for a great night of improvised fun, and this festive season they'll be coming to the West End with their new kids show providing fun for all the family. A sure-fire way to provide a Christmas holiday treat! Leicester Square Theatre, 3 to 30 December

7. Grimm Tales

Legendary His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman has adapted the stories of the Brothers Grimm for the present day, and a selection of those stories have now been adapted for the theatre by Philip Wilson. Witches, gore, enchanted forests and bravery collide in a perfect festive treat. Unicorn Theatre, 13 November to 6 January

6. How to catch a Krampus!

Drag collective Sink the Pink will be taking over the Pleasance Theatre in north London this Christmas with a brand new show putting an eccentric twist on a classic Christmas story. Audiences are told to expect an anarchic show somewhere between Sweeney Todd and the Wicker Man, with doses of drag and mind-bending magic. We can't wait. Pleasance Theatre, 13 November to 23 December

5. Seussical the Musical

The wacky inventions of Dr Seuss are brought to life in this new production of Seussical the Musical, which opens at Southwark Playhouse later in November. With a lovely cast and enough comedic chops to make for any Scrooge smile, this could be the off-West End musical to see this season. Oh, and if you're looking for some Seuss outside of London then the Curve is also reviving Cat in the Hat in Leicester. Southwark Playhouse, 22 November to 29 December

4. Fiddler on the Roof

Andy Nyman leads the cast in Menier Chocolate Factory's festive musical offering this year, returning after the venue's production of Barnum last December. Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joseph Stein's Fiddler on the Roof hasn't been seen in London since 2007, so this revival could be a superb chance to catch up with a classic. While further casting is yet to be announced, expect a cockle-warming display at one of London's finest off-West End establishments, directed by the legendary Trevor Nunn. Menier Chocolate Factory, 23 November to 6 March

3. Nativity!

The Hammersmith cast of Nativity!
© Simon Turtle

It had a stellar five-star run last Christmas so we're very excited to see it return to UK stages this winter. When the show, based on the famous film series of the same name, hits London in mid-December it will also feature Jo Brand and Danny Dyer, so expect a whole raft of stars to put on top of your Christmas tree (metaphorically of course). UK tour and Eventim Apollo

2. The Messiah

Hugh Dennis – star of Outnumbered – returns to the stage for the first time in a long while to play in Patrick Barlow's latest offering, about two men trying to direct their own nativity play. Expect gags-a-plenty delivered by some of the best comedic performers around. UK tour and The Other Palace 3 December to 5 January

1. White Christmas

Monique Young, who will be starring in White Christmas

We couldn't dream of a better cast for White Christmas, which is revived at Curve Leicester and features the likes of Emma Williams and Danny Mac (both Curve regulars). Inspired by the Bing Crosby novel and following two sisters and two ex-servicemen trying to save a ski-lodge, this feels like it'll be a very hot ticket for the festive season. Curve Leicester, 6 December to 13 January