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Oh Yes They Did! Stars Prepare for Panto Season

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If you haven\'t done so already, now is as good a time as any to plan for the imminent pantomime season. With that in mind, we\'ve put together a quick run-down of some of the major productions opening round the country in the next few weeks.

Among the usual plethora of celebrities who\'ve confirmed they will be stepping into the tights and the bright lights this Christmas is pop singer Gareth Gates, who\'ll be warming up for his West End turn as Joseph alongside Alistair McGowan and Joanna Page in Cinderella, at the New Wimbledon from 5 December to 18 January.

Another celebrity treading the boards in Cinderella this year is former Bond girl Britt Ekland, often heralded in her heyday as one of the world\'s most beautiful women. Ekland will star as the Fairy Godmother at the Shaw Theatre from 9 December 2008 until 3 January 2009.

Panto stalwart Christopher Biggins is taking a departure from his usual turn as the dame to play Buttons in the Southampton Mayflower production Cinderella - the Musical Pantomime, from 5 December - 17 January. Biggins, who is now reportedly the highest paid star in panto, is joined by TV presenter Matthew Kelly, who returns to the Mayflower to team up with son Matthew Rixon as the Ugly Sisters.

Meanwhile at the Bristol Hippodrome, Hollywood star Mickey Rooney is lending a bit of glamour to another production of - yes you guessed it - Cinderella. Eight-times-married 87 year-old Rooney, whose career has seen him win two Oscars and star alongside legends including Judy Garland, will play Baron Hardup opposite ex-Eastender Michelle Collins’ Wicked Stepmother and comic Bobby Davro’s Buttons. Cinderella is at The Bristol Hippodrome from 12 December 2008 until 11 January 2009.

Another Hollywood legend crossing the Atlantic for panto season is Police Academy actor Steve Guttenenburg, who is also starring as Baron Hardup in Cinderella! Guttenburg, who has starred in films such as Short Circuit and Three Men and a Baby, will be appearing at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley, from 5 December 2008 until 18 January 2009.

And just in case Cinderella is not your thing, why not check out musical theatre favourite John Barrowman, who\'s starring as the title role in Robin Hood at the Birmingham Hippodrome from 19 December 2008 until 1 February 2009, or Henry Winkler (aka the Fonz), who\'se returning to these shores to play Captain Hook in Peter Pan for the second year running, having stepped in last minute in 2007 to replace Baywatch actor David Hasselhoff. This time around, Winkler will appear at the Milton Keynes Theatre opposite comedian Andy Ford and EastEnders\' Louisa Lytton from 5 December until 18 January.

- by Kate Jackson



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