IT’S the season of fantastical plays and pantos — oh yes it is! Herald Arts is looking forward to a season of hiss, boos and mindblowing magic in the area with these Christmas family shows.
A Christmas Carol
When: 27th November to 4th February
Where: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford To run alongside the RSC’s Victorian-infused Twelfth Night, A Christmas Carol promises lots of festive warmth and wonder with a new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ festive tale by David Edgar and directed by Rachel Kavanaugh.
This is Edgar’s first Dickens adaptation since the multi-award-winning production of Nicholas Nickleby in the 1980s. Phil Davis, who plays Ebenezer Scrooge, is known for his extensive TV credits, which most recently include Riviera, Poldark and Whitechapel. He has a long association with Mike Leigh, one of his most well-known parts being Stanley in the award-winning Vera Drake.
A Christmas Carol is designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis, who designed The Tempest, last Christmas’ offering at the RSC. Recommended for ages seven and up. See www.rsc.org.uk or call 01789 412622.
Midwinter Magic Dance-Circus Spectacular
When: 13th to 17th December
Where: Shakespeare’s New Place Midwinter Magic Dance-Circus Spectacular promises to take audiences on an intriguing journey through the contemporary gardens of Shakespeare’s New Place.
Performers from award-winning dance-circus company Motionhouse will bring New Place to life through a series of exciting dance and acrobatics inspired by timeless themes of Shakespeare’s work.
Midwinter Magic promises to be a visual and physical feast with pure skill, spectacle and magical storytelling — and we’re promised a truly immersive after-dark theatrical experience. See www.shakespeare.org.uk
When: 1st to 9th December
Where: The Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford Roald Dahl’s The Witches has been adapted for the stage by David Wood and here is directed by Bear Pit artistic director, David Mears. It promises to be a faithful adaptation of Dahl’s classic story in which Boy and his Grandmother defeat the Grand High Witch and her followers, who are holding a conference in an English seaside hotel.
During the struggle, Boy gets turned into a mouse. The Witches are nothing like the ones who wear pointed hats and fly on broomsticks, they look very much like ordinary women, which helps their deception. The play offers many opportunities for illusions and inventive puppetry. Humour is provided by the vulgar Jenkins family, whose daughter, Bruna, also becomes a mouse. See www.thebearpit.org.uk or call 01789 403416.
When: Now until 13th January
Where: Belgrade Theatre, Coventry Join Cinderella on her quest to win the heart of the dashing Prince Charming, with a little help from her best friend Buttons and the enchanting Fairy Godmother. But with her evil Ugly Sisters determined to ruin her chances and the clock about to strike midnight, will Cinders manage to win the Prince’s love before the spell runs out?
Once again written and directed by Iain Lauchlan, this year’s Belgrade panto will feature the spectacular sets, lavish costumes and sing-along-songs that make a trip to the theatre a truly unmissable Christmas treat. See next week’s Herald for our review. Find out more: www.belgrade.co.uk or call 024 7655 3055.
When: Now to 14th January
Where: The Theatre, Chipping Norton Once upon a time there lived a Princess, her long-suffering Nanny, her doting Fairy Godmother, and grumpy old King Lenny. On her 18th birthday, the Princess pricks her finger on a spinning wheel and falls deeply asleep. When she wakes up, exactly 400 years have passed and things have got a whole lot groovier — but who just kissed her?
What strange clothes everyone is wearing! And what’s that music?! Written by one of Herald arts’ favourite panto writers, Andrew Pepper, the Chippy panto is always very funny, edgy and original… this one goes the glorious pageantry of the Tudors to the flower-powered freedom of the 60s, and includes great tunes and dodgy fashion. Find out more: www.chippingnortontheatre.com or call 01608 642350.
The Hundred and One Dalmatians
When: 30th November to 13th January
Where: Birmingham REP Theatre There’s puppies, puppets and magical mayhem promised with this REP festive offering. Dalmatians Pongo and Missis enjoy an idyllic life with their humans, Mr and Mrs Dearly.
Then one day, the house is filled with the patter of tiny paws when Missis gives birth to a litter of adorable puppies. But just as the Dearlys get used to their new housemates, the puppies mysteriously vanish… Director Tessa Walker once again bring her festive magic to The REP following previous productions such as 2013’s A Christmas Carol.
Gloria Onitiri is making her REP debut as Cruella de Vil. For more information see www.birmingham-rep.co.uk or call 0121 236 4455.
The Wizard of Oz
When: 20th to 31st December
Where: Dream Factory, Warwick Playbox has a great record of offering exceptional Christmas productions for the family, and this year they tell us they are upping the ante with this production, which is heavily influenced by the great MGM musical, albeit with youth theatre company Playbox’s hallmark innovative staging and theatricality.
Taking the lead role of Dorothy is Tasha Chapel, who played Matilda in the West End. For more information, see www.playboxtheatre.com or telephone 01926 419555.
When: 19th December to 28th January Where: Birmingham Hippodrome Soul-diva Beverley Knight will make her pantomime debut in this year’s Hippodrome spectacular, alongside Strictly Come Dancing finalist, Danny Mac, Birmingham panto-favourite, Matt Slack, pop and television star, Suzanne Shaw, comedy duo The Grumbleweeds, and the most faaaaabulous Ugly Sisters in showbusiness (it says here!), Ceri Dupree and Phil Randall.
Find out more at www.birminghamhippodrome.com or call 0844 338 5000. Jack and the Beanstalk
When: 8th to 31st December
Where: the Core Theatre, Solihull Solihull’s own Mr Panto, Malcolm Stent, will treat audiences to one final dollop of sparkling fun and silliness as he takes to the stage in his final panto after 27 years.
With Malcolm’s unique local references and an intimate auditorium… where no one is more than 15 rows from the front, this show is perfect for audiences two to 102. Find out more at www.thecoretheatresolihull.co.uk, or call 0121 704 6962.
Jack And the Beanstalk
When: 20th to 30th December
Where: Stratford ArtsHouse Brought to you by the team behind the successful production of 2016’s Aladdin, this year’s pantomime will feature the usual whacky costumes, scenery and plenty of audience participation. The show features a professional cast, and promises to be a song and dance show for all the family. For tickets, see www.stratfordartshouse.co.uk or call 01789 207100.
When: 14th December to 7th January
Where: The Attic Theatre, Stratford Tread the Boards Theatre Company present their annual Christmas pantomime and promise their usual unruly wit and verve. This year director, John-Robert Partridge, who is stepping away from his usual Dame role to take on Buttons, presents the magical story of Cinderella.
Bullied by her ugly step sisters, and made to scrub and clean, Cinderella has a dream of one day going to the ball and meeting Prince Charming. But when she meets her Fairy Godmother her dreams become a reality… See www.treadtheboardstheatre.co.uk, or call 07952 819557
Peter Pan — Christmas in Neverland
When: 20th to 24th December
Where: Arena Birmingham Bradley Walsh and Martin Kemp star in this show that will be performed across three arena stages on a stunning movie-style Neverland set. The Jolly Roger Galleon will sail around the arena in front of a 10,000-gallon water wall.
From any position in the audience, you are close to the action, with a giant 60 feet-wide LED screen, computer graphic imagery and a live close-up TV-relay ensuring never a moment is missed. JM Barrie’s classic will feature a cast of over 100 performers, including a thrilling team of BMX riders, stuntmen and trapeze artists, along with a seven-metre-long animatronic crocodile! Find out more at www.worldsbiggestpanto.com
When: 24th November to 13th December
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome Nothing says Christmas like The Nutcracker. Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production will once again be enchanting audiences with its sumptuous sets, lavish costumes, magical Christmas tree, winter wonderland of dancing snowflakes and a magical Sugar Plum Fairy in one of the most celebrated festive shows of all time.
Join young Clara as she is swept away into an enchanted world as gigantic sets, lavish costumes, 60 dancers and a full orchestra combine to make the perfect Christmas treat for the entire family. Find out more at www.brb.org.uk
Enchanted Christmas Kingdom
When: 25th November to 24th December
Where: Hatton Adventure World Kids can meet Santa in his grotto and the whole family can enjoy an array of entertainments, including Zoobee’s Christmas Cracker Show, which promises to get everyone into the festive spirit. Find out more: at www.hattonworld.com/adventure-world or call 01926 843411.