The best Christmas theatre in London in 2017
It’s never too early to start planning for Christmas, especially when theatre is concerned. So if you’re looking to buy someone that perfect present, or planning a family day out, here are some of our favourite festive treats in the capital this Christmas.
After the stonking success of the return of panto to the Palladium last year, traditional festive theatre returns to this historic London theatre. Cinderella was the first pantomime at the Palladium for over thirty years, and this November, Dick Whittington will boast a terrific cast. Charlie Stemp and Emma Williams took the West End by storm in Half a Sixpence, and they’ll be joined by Julian Clary, Nigel Havers, Elaine Paige and dance troupe Diversity. Produced by panto giants Qdos, this year’s offering about the orphan boy who tries to start a life in London will be sure to go down a treat.
Jack Thorne stamped his mark on the Georg Büchner's Woyzeck at the Old Vic earlier this year, and he returns to theatre this winter with his new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Welsh actor Rhys Ifans will play Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable old man who is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve who show him his past and give him a glimpse of the future if he does not change his ways. Ifans returns to the Old Vic stage after playing Fool opposite Glenda Jackson’s King Lear last year.
Jack and the Beanstalk
The Lyric Hammersmith promises this year’s panto will be the ‘biggest yet’. And so it should be as they take on the classic story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Joel Horwood reimagines the story for the panto, which stars Cherelle Skeete (the original Rose Weasley-Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) as the Fairy Godmother, and BBC Proms presenter Vikki Stone as Fleshcreep. The production will feature an enormous cow and a gigantic beanstalk, as well as plenty of live music and jokes.
Pantomimes don’t get bigger than this. For just four performances at the 12,500-seater arena, actors Bradley Walsh and Martin Kemp will take to the stage as Mr Smee and Captain Hook, with Matt Knight starring as Peter Pan. The production sounds pretty spectacular: a cast of over 100 performers, a team of BMX riders, a 7-metre animatronic crocodile, a 10,000-gallon water wall (we're not even sure what that means...), a 60-foot wide LED screen... the list goes on. This will certainly be a panto you won’t forget in a hurry.
La Soiree returns to the capital, but this time, it comes to a proper West End theatre. After spending the last six years in a pop-up theatre in London, the world-renowned, award-winning cabaret show will run at the Aldwych Theatre. Past years have seen performers such as Ursula Martinez and her ‘disappearing hanky’, gravity-defying roller-skaters The Skating Willers, aerialist extraordinaire Katherine Arnold and opera-singing diva Le Gateau Chocolat. It’s perfect if you want to make your Christmas a little more risqué, but it is only suitable for those aged 17 and over. However… (see below)
…for the first time, La Soiree are offering an afternoon show suitable for everyone aged 8 to 80. With the same spirit as the adult show, the acts will perform for a brand new audience. It’s the same show ‘minus the sauce’, as the promotional material puts it. La Petite Soiree will run at 3pm on Saturday afternoons, and throughout the Christmas school holidays. Perfect for a special family day out.
Remember the film? Nativity! Martin Freeman as an under-achieving primary school teacher at St Bernadette’s Catholic School, and competes with the local Protestant school to produce the best school Christmas play. Now it’s a musical, opening at Birmingham Rep in October, and then running at the Eventim Apollo in December. Daniel Boys will play teacher Paul Maddens, with a cast that includes Sarah Earnshaw and Simon Lipkin.
After premiering at the Piccadilly Theatre in 1997, Matthew Bourne’s take on this classic fairy tale returns to London for a Christmas season at Sadler’s Wells. Featuring some of the most magical dancing from the award-winning choreographer, the production won the Olivier for Best New Dance Production when it was revived in 2010. It sets the story in wartime London, as Cinderella falls for an RAF pilot, only to be parted by the Blitz. This has become a seasonal muse-see for many dance enthusiasts, so don’t miss out.
Panto at the Hackney Empire is pretty legendary, and this year, Susie McKenna has adapted and will direct Cinderella for the venue. Starring Aisha Jawando, who has appeared in the West End productions of Motown and Beautiful, it will be the 19th pantomime at the theatre, which has become a staple in East London culture. The cast also includes Tony Whittle, Kat B, Peter Straker, Darren Hart, Susie McKenna, Stephane Anelli and Chris Jenkins.
A must-see for every Disney fan. Running at The O2 Arena at the end of December, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Daisy take to the ice in a special journey through the Disney universe. The story will whizz through your favourite Disney films, from The Lion King to The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan to Frozen.
Audiences flock to Theatre Royal Stratford East every year to see their renowned panto. This year, they take on Rapunzel, as she tries to escape from evil witch Maddy and save her favourite forest Stratica with her friends. This year’s panto has a book and lyrics by Trish Cooke and original music and lyrics from Robert Hyman.
We all know the story of The Gruffalo: a mouse strolls through the woods and encounters a grizzly bear/buffalo hybrid. The children’s favourite was followed up by a sequel, The Gruffalo’s Child. This musical stage adaptation returns to the West End at the Lyric Theatre this Christmas.
Another Christmas classic runs at the Peacock Theatre this December. With music and lyrics by Howard Blake, including the Christmas standard “Walking in the Air”, Raymond Briggs is brought to life on stage, with the help of a live orchestra. With exquisite dancing and sets, watch the story of a young boy and his magical flying snowman unfold before your eyes.