What family doesn’t love a good local pantomime? Choruses of ‘oh no he didn’t!’ and ‘he’s behind you!’ have been echoing round British theatres for many years.
It’s something purely British, as our continental cousins are often baffled by this style of entertainment according to the BBC. Though our festive season wouldn’t be the same without it.
That’s why we’ve brought together some of this year’s hottest pantos in one article to help you find your local pantomime.
Whether you’re looking for a family outing (or a hit of nostalgia) there’s sure to be something for everyone!
Aladdin- Princess Theatre, Torquay
This classic story of magic carpets, mysterious lamps and true love is a staple of pantomimes. The performance at the Princess Theatre also boasts some excellent cast members that will make it a night to remember.
You all know the story; when Aladdin falls in love with the Princess of China, he must prove he’s the right guy to win her hand. The genie in the magic lamp might hold the key, but can he outwit the Evil Sorcerer and find true love?
A highlight of the cast is Anne Hegerty, known for her merciless performances on The Chase. She’s also a prolific pantomime star, appearing in the likes of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Beauty and the Beast. Other notable cast members include X Factor contestants Sam Callahan and Luke Friend, while Last of the Summer Wine‘s Tom Owen plays the sorcerer Abanazar.
A great show treat for anyone in the Torquay area this December.
Jack and the Beanstalk- New Wimbledon Theatre – London
9th December 2017-14th January 2018
This pantomime marks the first performance of Jack and the Beanstalk in the area for more than 15 years. It’s also being held by one of the world’s biggest pantomime producers, Qdos Entertainment, making this a show to look forward to.
Stand-up comedian Al Murray and Olivier winner Clive Rowe (The Story of Tracy Beaker) lead the cast in this timeless fairytale of beanstalks, giants and fabulous treasure. The show boasts stunning scenery and special effects, beautiful costumes and- of course- plenty of audience participation.
Plus it’s in aid of the NSPCC, so while treating yourself to a your local pantomime you’ll be supporting a great charity at the same time.
As one of the world’s most famous fairytales, Cinderella is an excellent choice for any panto fan. The classic rags-to-riches tale has everything a pantomime could ask for: marvellous magic, a happy ending and villains you love to hate.
This performance of the classic tale boasts some big names. Prince Charming is played by Blue’s Duncan James, who’s also appeared in stage productions of Sherlock Holmes and TV soap Hollyoaks. Jodie Prenger, winner of the reality show I’d Do Anything, plays the Fairy Godmother. You can find out more about the rise of the theatre talent shows and about Jodie Prenger in one of our previous articles here.
Each of these perfomers promises to make this panto an unforgettable one!
Robin Hood and The Babes in the Wood- York Barbican
If you want something a little off the beaten track, this pantomime at the York Barbican might be just what you’re after. It mixes elements of the classic Robin Hood story with the Babes in the Wood tale to produce an unforgettable all-ages night out.
This performance boasts the biggest lineup of stars that the city has ever seen. It includes Boyzone’s Shane Lynch, Eastenders’ Ricky Norwood and Coronation Street’s Michael Starke.
It also sees the return of 90s pop star Anna Kumble (Lolly) and The Voice star Jaz Ellington, who are playing the fairy and Friar Tuck respectively.
Bradford Alhambra’s pantomime is a Christmas highlight, and this year’s panto promises to be no different. Veteran actor and Prince of Bradford Panto, Billy Pearce, makes his usual appearance and this year he’s joined by the singer and Loose Women panelist Coleen Nolan, as well as stage star Shane Nolan in what promises to be a top-quality pantomime!
The Alhambra celebrated its 100-year birthday back in 2014. It is the place for pantos in Yorkshire thanks to Francis Laidler, also known as the King of Panto.
Peter Pan- Christmas in Neverland – Arena Birmingham
20th – 24th Dec
Taking pantomimes to a large scale is this year’s Peter Pan panto in Birmingham.
With a movie-like Neverland set across 3 stages, a giant 60 foot wide screen, a life-size Jolly Roger galleon with a 10,000 gallon water wall to sail in front of, an animatronic crocodile, BMX stunt riders, aerial mermaids and 100 stuntmen, this promises to be a show to remember.
Running for seven shows across five days it will then tour to Wembley Arena with all props included.
Props alone don’t make a show, though. You can enjoy performances by The Chase presenter Bradley Walsh, and Eastenders star Martin Kemp.
As you can see from Birmingham’s local pantomime, props and show equipment for each panto varies. But stage sets are essential in supporting actors with their performance.
If you’re looking to put on your own show (panto or otherwise), Stagefreight is ready to work some magic.
Our flexibility means we can transport materials for shows of all shapes and sizes. We’ve catered for everything from 28-trailer tours to a tour transported in a single van!
We’ve also managed to build up a vast wealth of experience thanks to our connections with key theatre companies. By working with Opera North, Northern Ballet and the English National Ballet, we’ve learned what the professionals expect when it comes to transporting their goods. That’s why we’re one of the best choices when it comes to transporting and setting up your show.
Whatever you’re performing, the show must go on. And when you partner with Stagefreight, you’re ensuring your show goes off without a hitch!
At the beginning of 2017 the BBC launched Let It Shine; a reality show to find performers for a new, ‘Take That’ inspired musical.
It’s the latest in a long line of similar talent shows that have appeared on British screens in the last decade and which moved on to become theatre tours in their own right.
We thought it would be interesting to look back at previous theatre talent shows and see how well their theatre productions turned out.
Join us on our trip down memory lane, as we relive the highs and lows of this unusual time in television history.
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?
The theatre talent show phenomenon kicked off with How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?
Contestants competed for the lead role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 2006 production of The Sound of Music, and were judged on their performances by Andrew Lloyd Webber himself, as well as Doctor Who actor John Barrowman.
Eventually, the finalists were narrowed down to ten hopefuls, who competed for votes each week live on BBC1. The winner was Welsh actress Connie Fisher, who received a six-month contract to play the role of Maria Rainer.
Connie’s debut at the London Palladium was warmly received by several newspapers:
The Guardiansaid Connie “occupies the Palladium stage with absolute confidence and winning charm”.
The Independentsaid Connie was “charmingly natural from the moment she starts to sing” and possessed “a mellifluous warmth, a comforting maternal quality”.
Variety was less complimentary, saying she was “winningly confident” even if she “lacks originality and the essential vulnerability”.
Despite the review by Variety, Connie went on to star as Maria during a UK theatre tour of The Sound Of Music in July 2009, which started in Cardiff before touring to Bradford and Southampton among other places.
Any Dream Will Do
The following year, Andrew Lloyd Webber returned to television to find his next star.
The theatre talent show, ‘Any Dream Will Do’, offered a starring role in the 2007 performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, at the Adelphi Theatre in London.
Hosted by the unmatched Graham Norton, the show followed a similar format to How Do You Solve… with twelve Joseph hopefuls reaching the final.
The Essex-born Lee Mead won the competition, in the end, receiving the most public votes after nine weeks of live shows.
Joseph’s reviews were mixed:
Writing for londontheatre.co.uk, Chloe Preece said the props and costumes “look like they came from a charity shop”. She went on to criticise the songs, saying “ ‘Any Dream Will Do’ and ‘Close Every Door to Me’ were the only mildly passable ones”. However, she praised Mead himself, citing his “rich and strong” voice and popularity with the audience.
The Evening Standard was more complimentary, saying the show “offers a seductive blend of camp, kitsch”.
The Times said Lee Mead was “both talented and enthusiastic”, while the show as a whole “is a reminder of how splendidly versatile Lloyd Webber can be”.
Mead went on to perform as Joseph for 600 shows before appearing as Joseph for the last time in January 2009.
A ‘10 years since Joseph!’ anniversary theatre tour is planned for 2018 with Milton Keynes, Newport and Redditch as key destinations so far.
I’d Do Anything
Andrew Lloyd Webber returned to television for a third time with I’d Do Anything in 2008.
This time the production in the limelight was Oliver!
The search was on for the lead role of both Oliver Twist and Nancy.
Three young hopefuls would go on to play the part of Oliver in the West End, while just one would go on to play Nancy.
Blackpool entertainer Jodie Prenger landed the role of Nancy, while the role of Oliver was shared by Gwion Jones, Harry Stott and Laurence Jeffcoate.
The four were joined by Rowan Atkinson as Fagin, and all of them appeared in the 2009 production at the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane, which ran for just under two years.
Reviews for the show were mixed again:
Writing in The Guardian, Susannah Clapp described Jodie’s Nancy as “boisterous by strangely bland”.
While Michael Billington (writing in the same publication) said she “delivers her big number with passionate fervour” even if there were “too many cockney knees-up for his liking”.
Michael Coveney delivered the most damning verdict in TheIndependent: “(…) she can’t act and she doesn’t have the depth of lung power to fill a plastic bag, let alone a West End theatre on a daily basis”.
Over the Rainbow
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 4th BBC collaboration followed his search for a Dorothy (and Toto) to star in his 2011 production of The Wizard of Oz.
According to Lloyd Webber himself The Wizard of Oz presented unique challenges, as previous productions had struggled to differentiate themselves from the 1939 film.
Eventually the show opened at the London Palladium, where it ran for 18 months.
The show was also unusual in that the winner was eventually replaced by her alternate. Danielle Hope, a 17-year old Mancunian, beat out all ten of her rivals in a grueling eight-week competition.
However, her rival Sophie Evans was brought on to play the role once a week, before replacing Danielle full time in 2012.
Lloyd Webber’s production was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for the Best Musical Revival.
Writing in the Telegraph, Charles Spencer (self-professed Wizard hater) said Danielle’s Dorothy offered a “thoroughly competent rather than an inspired performance. She sings Over the Rainbow with feeling (…) but she lacks the heart-catching vulnerability of the young Judy Garland”. However, he did also say that fans of the original film would enjoy it.
The London Evening Standard’sHenry Hitchings was more complimentary, saying Danielle Hope made “a winning impression. Her performance combines innocence with easy charm, and her voice soars”.
Sophie Evans’ performance was well received by the Oxford Times . Christopher Gray described her as “an actress and singer of the greatest accomplishment”.
While Karen Price from the Wales Onlinesaid she “plays a naive and tender Dorothy who you really want to befriend”.
The last theatre talent show to hit our screens by Webber was Superstar.
It followed the search for the lead actor in Lloyd Webber’s 2012 production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
This show was marked by a few changes: it moved to ITV, with Amanda Holden presenting it and Jason Donovan, Dawn French and Melanie Chisholm replacing John Partridge, Sheila Hancock and Charlotte Church as the judges.
The show was won by Sunderland actor Ben Forster, who benefited from previous experience in productions like Grease and Thriller – Live.
Lloyd Webber’s production premiered at the 02 Arena in London, before going on to Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle, Dublin and several other venues.
It also saw a high number of celebrity cast members.
Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles played the role of Herod, while Spice Girls member Mel C played the role of Mary Magdalene and Tim Minchin played the role of Judas.
The production polarised critics:
While the Telegraph’s Laura Thompson praised it, citing Tim Minchin’s “weary intelligence’ and Mel C’s ‘lovely relaxed Mary Magdalene”.
The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner was far less complimentary. She said the show contained “spectacle, but very little variety” and decried the performers’ poor acting abilities.
Ready For A Theatre Tour?
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Don’t forget to visit our Case Studies page. There, you can read about our experiences working with major clients like Opera North.
If you think Stagefreight can help you with your own production, don’t delay; get in touch with us now via our contact page.
This play is an excellent introduction to Shakespeare for younger theatre-goers. Book your tickets from Barbican here.
Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre)
This sung-through musical has exploded in popularity during its American tour. It tells the life story of Alexander Hamilton- immigrant, statesman and Founding Father- via music influenced by both classic theatre shows and contemporary hip-hop.
Shining a light on a vital chapter of American history, the work has received numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, an American composer and actor whose career spans 15 years and numerous awards. He also co-wrote the songs for Moana, Disney’s latest animated musical.
Hamilton is coming to the UK for the first time this November. Playing to sold- out venues across the USA, this is one history lesson you can’t afford to miss.
This contemporary dance piece is returning to British stages for the first time in 13 years. Written by Christopher Bruce and first performed in 1981, the theatre show is a tribute to the people of South America and the trials they have endured.
Written by Christopher Bruce and first performed in 1981, the theatre show is a tribute to the people of South America and the trials they have endured.
It also takes inspiration from Day of the Dead imagery and Latin American music.
Ghost Dances’ haunting costumes and powerful emotional themes mean seeing it now is a rare opportunity.
The piece was performed several times in the past through the 80s and 90s. It garnered positive reviews from many different publications including the New York Times, Independent and Evening Standard.
This time the piece is being performed by Rambert, a London-based contemporary dance company. However, they are performing at several venues nationwide; you can buy tickets from their website.
The Sleeping Beauty
This lavish stage production is inspired by the classic Charles Perrault fairytale.
The timeless story of fairies, princesses and spinning wheels has seen countless adaptations. However, this show from the Birmingham Royal Ballet might be one of the most lavish yet.
Featuring elaborate costumes, gorgeous sets and rave reviews from the Guardian, Times and Sunday Telegraph, this is an exciting yet family-friendly night out.