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'Oh yes it is!' - Our list of the big pantos in the West Midlands and Shropshire

By Heather Large | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

Get ready with your best boos, biggest cheers and obligatory shouts of ‘He’s behind you’ – panto season is here.

Sleeping Beauty

It’s a Christmas tradition that stretches across the generations as famous names, seasoned performers and traditional fairy tales continue to draw in the crowds.

Every year pantomimes and festive shows prove big business for venues, helping to fill seats during the winter months.

While for many children, it’s their first introduction to live theatre and a memory that lasts a lifetime.

Here are the productions spreading their magic in Shropshire and the West Midlands this year.

SLEEPING BEAUTY

Wolverhampton Grand, December 8-January 13

Debbie McGee in Sleeping Beauty

With magic, music, comedy and special effects, Sleeping Beauty promises to be the pantomime of your dreams.

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Among the stars bringing the classic fairytale to life will be former Strictly Dancing contestant the lovely Debbie McGee.

Qdos Entertainment managing director Michael Harrison said: “Not only has Debbie proved amazing prowess on the dance floor we all know she’s capable of producing real magic and we can’t wait to get started.”

Also entertaining audiences will be Richard Cadell and Sooty along with panto favourites Doreen Tipton and Ian Adams who are both back by popular demand.

By pricking her finger on an enchanted spinning wheel a beautiful Princess is placed under a curse and forced to sleep for 100 years. Can the Princess’ friends help save her? Who will outwit the evil Carabosse and foil her wicked plans? Will Doreen cope with having a job for once? All will be revealed.

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To book tickets see grandtheatre.co.uk or call the box office on 01902 42 92 12.

PETER PAN

Birmingham Hippodrome, December 19-January 27

This swashbuckling production is expected to dazzle tens of thousands of pantomime-goers as they set sail to Neverland this festive season.

The highly-anticipated show marks the panto debut of Essington-raised comedian, actor and writer Meera Syal, who will play a Mermaid

Peter Pan’s all-star cast also includes returning favourite Matt Slack, back for his sixth successive Hippodrome stint, plus boyband star Jaymi Hensley, from Union J, and the youngest of 70s stars the Osmond brothers, Jimmy Osmond, as Captain Hook.

With amazing flying effects, barrels of laughter, magic and fairy dust, audiences can join Peter and the Lost Boys as they set sail in the ultimate pirate Pantomime adventure.

Rehearsals are well under way and producers have promised the UK’s biggest and best pantomime.

For tickets go to birminghamhippodrome.com or call the box office on 0844 338 5000

ELF – A CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR

Resort World Arena, Birmingham, December 20-24

The hit West End and Broadway musical based on the Hollywood blockbuster movie, has been supersized into a Christmas spectacular.

Starring pop legend David Essex as Buddy the Elf’s father, Love Actually star and singer Martine McCutcheon as Buddy’s girlfriend, Jovie along with comedy actor Tam Ryan as Buddy, it is described as a festive treat like no other.

Featuring a book written by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers and Hairspray), it features an original score of great new songs.

There also many special effects lined up aimed at taking the audience’s breath away, including a giant sleigh that flies across the arena, an indoor snow blizzard and lots of skating.

With giant screens and a huge stage everyone can catch all of the action.

To book tickets see www.resortsworldarena.co.uk

DICK WHITTINGTON

Lichfield Garrick, Now until January 5

A star-studded cast are taking to the stage for this hugely popular Christmas pantomime.

Shows are already under way featuring Sam Rabone as Dolly the Cook and Ben Thornton as Silly Billy and Katrina Bryan of CBeebies’ Nina and the Neurons fame who is playing the magical Fairy Bowbells.

They are joined by seasoned professionals Ashley Emerson as Dick Whittington, Ieuan Rhys as Alderman Fitzwarren, Joanne Heywood as the baddie Queen Rat, Becca Lane as Alice Fitzwarren, and Lucy Parry as Tommy the Cat.

They will be supported by The Garrick’s juvenile company which gives young people the chance to perform in an all-singing, all-dancing professional production.

Dan Ingleby, marketing manager for The Garrick, said: “Thanks to the sell-out success of last year’s production we have extended the run by a further week this year to give more people the opportunity to visit us and enjoy the festive fun.”

For tickets see lichfieldgarrick.com or call the box office on 01543 412121.

DICK WHITTINGTON THE ROCK ‘N’ ROLL PANTO

Stafford Gatehouse Theatre, December 7-January 6

Get your dancing feet ready for this year’s musical adventure. Audiences will watch Dick Whittington and his trusty friend Tabby the Cat dancing, twisting and singing their way to London in search of fame, fortune and Rock ‘n’ Roll, while attempting to outwit the evil King Rat and catch the eye of beautiful Alice.

Popular hits set to feature include blockbusters Uptown Girl, Aint No Mountain High Enough, Dead Ringer for Love, Eye of the Tiger, Walking On Sunshine and Gimme Some Lovin’

The show will be the seventh consecutive Rock ‘n’ Roll panto at the Gatehouse Theatre since its return in 2012.

This year, the theatre welcomes back director Rob Salmon, production designer Deborah Mingham, choreographer Verity Bray, and the music director of Stafford Festival Shakespeare’s Macbeth, David Hewson.

Joining them in the cast will be Max Runham as Dick Whittington, Laura Sillett as Alice, Peter Manchester as the Dame, Sarah the Cook, Guy Freeman as Billy Bungalow and Tomas Wolstenholme as King Rat.

Tickets can be booked by calling the box office on 01785 619080 or by visiting staffordgatehousetheatre.co.uk

WIZARD OF OZ

Birmingham Rep, Now until January 13

See Oz like you’ve never seen it before in this festive treat. It is one of the most popular tales of all time and has delighted generations.

But now it’s been given a fresh look in this new production directed by Liam Steel.

When farm girl Dorothy Gale runs away from the evil Miss Gulch, she finds herself lost in a strange and wonderful new world. With her faithful dog Toto at her side, she sets off on an adventure to find her way back home.

Along the way she meets some peculiar but loveable characters who are also in search of something special – a Scarecrow needing a brain, a Tin Man looking for a heart and a Lion lacking in courage. Together they follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City in search of answers from the mysterious and all-powerful Wizard of Oz.

But the friends soon find themselves caught between the forces of good and evil as they are mercilessly pursued by the Wicked Witch of the West. Will they ever make it to Oz and find what they are desperately seeking from the Wizard?

The team promises there will be favourite songs and characters from the classic film with an added sprinkle of REP magic.

For tickets see birmingham-rep.co.uk

Pinocchio, The Old Rep, Birmingham

Now until December 30

This adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s classic tale follows an inquisitive young puppet, carved from wood by the lonely toymaker Geppetto, on a mischievous journey to discover what it takes to become a real boy.

Venturing from the safety of Geppetto’s workshop, Pinocchio finds himself in a series of chaotic situations, narrowly escaping the clutches of Mangiafuoco’s Puppet Theatre, the depths of the ocean and the Land of Toys.

Holly Sayer takes the title role of Pinocchio and is joined by Ralph Birtwell as Geppetto. David Alwyn takes on the dual role as Mangiafucco/Little Man alongside Martin Bassindale taking the dual role as Fox/Candlewick. Daisy Ann Fletcher completes the cast as the magical Blue Fairy.

This version of Pinocchio for The Old Rep stage, by playwright Toby Hulse will be directed by the familiar face of Alec Fellows-Bennett who steps off the stage to direct the action.

The professional cast is being joined by an ensemble cast of students from Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA).

For tickets see oldreptheatre.co.uk

MOTHER GOOSE

Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, Now until January 6

More than 38,000 tickets have already been sold for this show’s six-week run which promises magical effects, show stopping scenery and laughs aplenty.

Featuring Shropshire’s favourite Dame, Brad Fitt, it’s been produced by Evolution, the same creative team behind last year’s smash hit Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

It also stars alongside pantomime regulars Eric Smith and Matt Dallen alongside Lisa Davina Phillip and Matt Daines.

The production is believed to be the only showing of the tale in the country and will feature audience interaction, a flying fairy, and lots of laughter.

Writer Paul Hendy told audiences what they could expect: “The story is about Mother Goose, Brad, who has this magic goose which lays golden eggs.

“There’s a baddy, Demon Vanity, who wants the magic goose and says to Fairy Goodfeather that although Mother Goose is not vain she would trade the goose for beauty.

“He changes her but then nobody loves her anymore and then she realises it’s not about beauty and youth and money as she was happier before.

“It’s a moral tale, in the end she realises it’s about love not money.

“It will have all the classic pantomime traits, lots of audience participation and some surprises.”

To book tickets see theatresevern.co.uk

CINDERELLA

Telford Oakengates Theatre, December 11-January 6

The audience will have a ball as this timeless fairytale is brought to life.

Cinderella has always dreamed of leaving her dull life as a servant to meet a handsome Prince.

After the announcement that Prince Charming is going to hold a royal ball, it seems she may get her wish after all, but with the Ugly Sisters around, who knows what will happen.

Maybe with the help of Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and a generous helping of fairy dust, and a glass slipper, perhaps Cinderella’s wish could come true and she will live happily ever after?

EastEnders actor Tony Discipline stars in the cast along with Cbeebies Rhyme Rockets Joe Chambers as Dandini, 90s pop star Anna Kumble aka Lolly as Fairy Godmother and comedy star Carl Dutfield as Buttons.

Theatregoers can expect plenty of songs, dazzling dance routines,stunning scenery, and special effects including a flying carriage.

For tickets visit theplacetelford.com

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK

Festival Drayton Centre, Market Drayton, December 7-9

Plenty of laughs for all the family and more glitter than you can shake a fairy’s wand at are on offer in this show.

There’s a new team behind this year’s panto, Dream Factory Theatre, who have made a big investment to make the show even better than before.

With a reputation for innovation and creativity, it is promising an exciting interpretation of this classic panto fairytale.

Join the cast to find out if Jack can save the farm, if Jill can save the day and if Dame Trot can save her cow from disaster.

Those who have been to previous pantos at the Festival Drayton Centre will see some of their favourite familiar faces return this year.

Scott Worsfold will be as Dame Trott, the always characterful Fee Egan will be playing Fleshcreep and the irrepressible Will Cousins is starring as Silly Billy.

For tickets see festivaldraytoncentre.com

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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