Christmas at the theatre is back on the menu

ballet dancer and ballerina leaping in air in Nutcracker costume

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker will be in Birmingham this December.

In recent days the outlook for festive theatre has dramatically improved, with Government and Lottery funding allowing many venues to re-open their doors for the first time since March. Fiona Horan gives you a round-up of some of the best Christmas shows that have been announced so far – with probably still more to come!

“The Nutcracker” in Birmingham

Birmingham Royal Ballet and Birmingham Repertory Theatre has announced a specially adapted production of the classic Christmas ballet The Nutcracker, which will run at The REP from 14th to 22nd December 2020. (The production will also run in London for a short period after Christmas at the Royal Albert Hall).

This new adaptation will bring the family favourite to The REP for the very first time. It will be a COVID-safe environment including socially distanced seating allocated to household or bubble groups only. The full-length production will be shortened to an 80-minute magical experience with all the best bits included! Audiences will be whisked from the Christmas Eve party where Fritz and Clara meet the magician Drosselmeyer, to the rousing battle between King Rat and the toy soldiers, through a flurry of Snowflakes and onto a journey to the Kingdom of Sweets where Clara meets the Sugar Plum Fairy and her prince – all accompanied by the Tchaikovsky score performed live by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

Ticket buyers will be eligible for a full refund in the event of circumstances preventing the performances from going ahead.


These are in addition to those reported in my two earlier articles The (Christmas) Show Must Go On and The (Christmas) Show Must Go On: some good news!

Qdos Pantos

Pantomime production company Qdos Entertainment has announced that socially distanced pantomimes will go ahead at Newcastle Theatre Royal, Theatre Royal Plymouth and Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre this year. This follows financial assistance from the National Lottery. It seems that there may be another six big-venue pantomimes still to be revealed …

Newcastle Theatre Royal has announced a new socially distanced production of Robin Hood, which will star singer-songwriter Joe McElderry. The one-act pantomime will play to a reduced capacity of 500 seats and run for 75 minutes with no interval from 19th December to 10th January 2021. Other cast members include Danny Adams, Clive Webb, Chris Hayward, illusionist Phil Hitchcock, gymnasts The Acromaniacs, Zoe Birkett and Mick Potts.

Theatre Royal Plymouth promises “a riotously funny, one-act celebration of pantomime, packed full of comedy and laughter” for audiences at Robinson Crusoe, which runs from 12th December to 3rd January 2021.

Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre will have a socially distanced production of Sleeping Beauty starring Joe Pasquale and Lesley Joseph. The cast also includes Ceri Dupree, Sarah Earnshaw and Georgia Carr, and the show will run from 19th December to 3rd January 2021.

ATG pantos

ATG has also announced three new pantomimes outside London at its theatres. The Bristol Hippodrome has dodged the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to bring panto lovers Robin Hood, which will run from 18th December to 10th January, and star Matt Slack, Richard Cadell & Sooty and Craig Revel Horwood as the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. Sleeping Beauty comes to the Manchester Opera House from 12th December to 3rd January 2021, and Milton Keynes Theatre will also have a version of Sleeping Beauty from 19th December to 10th January 2021. Cast news for these shows will follow soon …

Other pantos

The Garrick Theatre, London, has Potted Panto, described as “7 classic pantomimes in 70 hilarious minutes” from 5th December to 10th January 2021.

Basil Brush is in action at the Theatre Royal, Windsor in Cinderella, alongside Britt Ekland. It runs from 26th November to 10th January 2021.

The Marlowe, Canterbury has the fun-sounding Nurse Nellie Saves Panto from 11th December to 3rd January 2021.

Kings Theatre, Portsmouth has Dick Whittington from 28th November to 31st December.

The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, has Tweedy’s Reduced Pantomime (That Might Go A Bit Wrong). The byline is “guaranteed to have more laughs than cast”. There are several cast members, however, and it sounds like a very entertaining romp through the best bits of every panto you can think of. It runs from 4th December to the 3rd January 2021.

The Corn Exchange, Newbury has rubbed its magic lamp and Aladdin has appeared! (Actually, I think there might have been a lot of frantic hard work behind the scenes). The show promises songs from across the decades and traditional Corn Exchange pantomime fun – plus a few surprises.

The Deco, Northampton has Sleeping Beauty from 11th to 24th December.

The Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe is dusting off its stage and coming back to life with Cinderella from 19th December to 3rd January 2021.

St. George’s Theatre, Great Yarmouth, has re-opened. Its pantomime will be Rapunzel – The Lockdown Pantomime, which sounds intriguing. You can let your hair down for a night on the town and see it from 15th to 19th December.

Jack and the Beanstalk is taking root at the Lichfield Garrick, Staffordshire. This “Bite-Size Panto” will be a 75-minute show with no interval and lots of Fe Fi Fo Fun for all the family! It will run from 18th December to 3rd January 2021.

Nottingham Playhouse has Cinderella, arriving in her glass slippers as a last minute replacement for Beauty and the Beast (which is postponed to 2021). The pantomime will run from 27th November to 16th January 2021.

Head to Grimsby Auditorium for Sleeping Beauty (and the Socially Distanced Witch) from 11th to 27th December.

The Atkinson, Southport has The Wizard of Oz, with L. Frank Baum’s beloved children’s book re-imagined for the stage with “catchy songs and stunning choreography”. Appearing larger than life in virtual reality, the multi-talented musician, Dancing on Ice and Hollyoaks star Ray Quinn will be the magical Wizard of Oz, alongside the voice of the airwaves, Claire Simmo from BBC Radio Merseyside & Sandgrounder Radio as Glinda The Good Witch, West End star Chris Barton as Lion, the hilarious Lewis Pryor as Scarecrow, the loveable Mia Molly as Dorothy, Southport’s Tom Burroughs as Tinman and everyone’s favourite dame Michael Chapman as The Wicked Witch.

The Grand Theatre, Blackpool has Pantomonium! from the 18th December to 3rd January 2021. And the Joe Longthorne Theatre, Blackpool has Cinderella from 15th to 27th December.

M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool has Jack and the Beanstalk from 18th to 27th December.

Sleeping Beauty is at the Bradford Playhouse. It’s a very short run, from 17th to 20th December, so get in quick if you want to go to the ball!

Will there be a panto this year at the Sheffield Crucible? Oh yes there will! Sheffield Legend, Damian Williams saves Christmas with Damian’s Pop-Up Panto!, a fun-sized festive treat for the whole family. When a baddie steals the joy of pantomime, will Dame Dolly and her friends manage to rescue it? Oh yes they will!

Newcastle is doing well this year with another panto –  Jack and the Beanstalk at the Tyne Theatre & Opera House starring Charlie Richmond as Simple Simon and Lewis Denny as Dame Trott. This is a short run from 18th to 24th December.

Theatr Clwyd, Mold has The Panto That Nearly Never Was from 17th December to 3rd January 2021, though many dates are already sold out.

You can also enjoy a drive-in Cinderella panto at various locations around the country courtesy of The Parking Lot Social!

Other shows

Greenwich Theatre has both The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (9th December to 3rd January 2021) and A Christmas Carol (18th to 24th December) to choose from over the Christmas period.

Bournemouth Pavilion has a Christmas Spectacular from 21st to 26th December.

Exeter’s Northcott Theatre has a comic version of Treasure Island this Christmas from 9th December to 9th January 2021.

actors in stage comedy version of Treasure Island

Treasure Island will be on stage in Exeter. c. Mark Dawson Photography

Leeds Playhouse has A Christmas Carol from 3rd December to 9th January 2021.

The Vaudeville Theatre, London, will have an eight week run of Mischief Theatre’s comedy Magic Goes Wrong from 10th December to 31st January 2021. This joins the company’s long-running production The Play That Goes Wrong, which re-opens on 19th November at the Duchess Theatre in London. Theatre Royal, Bath also has The Play That Goes Wrong over the Christmas period from 17th December to 16th January 2021.

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl is told through through dance, song and Frank Moon’s live atmospheric music at Sadler’s Wells, London from 17th to 27th December.