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Gareth Hale Leads Christmas Carol Panto at Arts

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Pantomime will return to the heart of the West End this Christmas, with the newly-refurbished Arts Theatre announcing it will stage Susie McKenna and Steve Edis' adaptation of A Christmas Carol, with a cast led by comedian Gareth Hale as Scrooge. The Leicester Square Theatre has also announced it will stage "adults only" panto Sinderfella, featuring drag queen Bette Rinse in the title role.

A Christmas Carol, which runs from 25 November (previews from 11 November) to 10 January 2010 at the Arts, marks the first in what will be a five year initiative between Tiny Tim Productions and the venue, presenting Christmas entertainment for family audiences. As part of this year's show, the venue will transform its front of house area to create a “Victorian themed foyer offering Dickensian treats”.

Alongside Hale, the cast will also feature Simon Lipkin, Rebecca Thornhill and Michael Matus, as well as the voices of Matthew White as Charlie the Theatre Mouse and Sharon D Clarke as Bentolina the Theatre Cat. Susie McKenna, who also directs, is well known for her award-winning Christmas productions previously staged at the Hackney Empire, where she is associate director.

Pantomime enjoyed something of a West End rennaisance several years ago, with venues including the Old Vic (from 2004 to 2007), Barbican and Palladium staging popular Christmas shows. The trend appeared to be a short-lived one but now, after a brief hiatus, the genre is again proving popular with London venues. Recently Sean Holmes, new artistic director of the Lyric Hammersmith, announced that “traditional pantomime” will return to the venue this year, with a production of Jack and the Beanstalk, penned by a team of writers including playwright Richard Bean, opening in November (See News, 3 Jun 2009).

Sinderfella, which runs at the Leicester Square Theatre from the 7 to 30 December (previews from 4 December), is billed as “a bawdy mix of fabulous cross-dressing near-knuckle comedy, lots of audience participation and much festive cheer”. The cast includes drag queen Bette Rinse and Big Brother’s Kat (aka 'the Cookie Monster'), as Fairy Gone Wong.


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