features gig 


Look out behind you!

A directory of festive fun

in alphabetical show order

Wolverhampton Grand

Aladdin 3 December-7 January 2023 Details

Mother Goose 22-26 February 2023 Details

Malvern Theatres

Beauty and the Beast 8 December 2022 - 1 January 2023 Details

The Old Rep

Beauty and the Beast 18 November-16 December 2022 Details

Birmingham Hippodrome

Dick Whittington 17 December 2021-29 January 2023 Details

Coventry Belgrade

Jack and the Beanstalk 23 November 2022 - 7 January 2023 Details

Birmingham Rep

Jack and the Magic Beanstalk 7-31 December 2022 (3-6 year olds in the Door) Details

Lichfield Garrick

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 25 November 2021-2 January 2022 Details

And, with not a panto in sight

The Albany Theatre, Coventry

A Christmas Carol 2022 03-26 December Details 


A Christmas Carol  - to 1 January 2023 Details

Lichfield Garrick

The Bah Humbug Club 8-27 December 2022 (Studio) details

Alexandra Theatre

Dreamgirls 6-31 December Details

Birmingham Rep

Nativity The Musical 19 November-7 January 2023 Details

Derby Theatre

The Wind in the Willows 25 November-31 December 2022 Details

Ugly Duckling 1-31 December Details

It's panto time

Panto's 2000 year old tradition 

With Widow Twankey polishing her dolly tub (ask grandma) Snow white wondering if there will be eight dwarves because of inflation or only six because of the cost of living and Jack wondering if he can afford the heat to germinate his magic beans, it must be thigh slapping, look out behind you, panto time again.

Mind you, other shows are available to brighten the season of goodwill with festive sparkle for those seeking an alternative, oh yes there are, but let’s start in pantoland with this year’s Christmas crackers, in alphabetical panto order.



aladdin cast

Ian Billings as The Notary (left),  Tam Ryan as Wishee Washee, Ben Cajee as Aladdin, Sofie Anné as Princess Jasmine, Ian Adams as Widow Tweankey and  Michael Greco as Abanazar


First cracker to be pulled is Aladdin at Wolverhampton Grand opening on 3 December

Fresh from playing Arabia in Moulin Rouge: The Musical comes Zoe Birkett as The Spirit of the Ring while Michael Greco has left all his EastEnders’ Beppe Di Marco baggage behind  - filling several lock ups one would imagine – to become your top drawer panto baddy Abanazar – you can hear the boos from here.

CBeebies favourite Ben Cajee is the eponymous Aladdin while Ian Adams will be back in his/her frocks again, not caring once more no doubt, as Widow Twankey – a character who first saw the limelight of day in 1861.

Adding to the mix will be Ian Billings as the Notary, Sofie Anné as Princess Jasmine and Duane Gooden as the genie.

Meanwhile Tam Ryan went down a storm as Buttons last year, he was funny, clever, witty, the audience and kids loved him, and he’s back, this time as Wishee Washee – that’s the part but its Ryan, the bloke, the audience really want to see.

Chief Executive and Artistic Director at the Grand Theatre Adrian Jackson said; “The Grand Theatre has a rich history of producing pantomime, from the theatres opening season in 1894, panto was placed firmly at the heart of the annual programme. It has been my intention to return to in-house pantomime, and this year the ambition has become a reality.”

Aladdin opens(sesame) 3 December and runs to 7 January 2023.

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Beauty and the beast

beauty cast

Leon Craig as Polly La Plonk Left), Olivia Birchenough as Belle,Mark James as Louis La Plonk, Melanie Walters  as Fairy Bon Bon and Phil Atkinson as Hugo Pompidou

Heading south we come to the sinister castle of Malvern Theatres, the setting for and Beauty and the Beast with , Malvern’s favourite panto funny man Mark James as Louis La Plonk, Olivia Birchenough from Channel 5’s Milkshake! as Belle and .

Disney it ain’t but we get a cursed castle, a wicked Hugo, a spectacular transformation and an award winning script (Best Script – Great British Pantomime Awards 2019), and the promise of a feast of laughs.

Beauty will be having a beastly time – with laughs – from 8 Deccember to 1 January 2033.

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Beauty and the beast

od rep beauty

I know we have had a surfeit of chancellors and prime ministers of late, but it seems beasts are not immune to this current trend with another Belle confronting her own beast at The Old Rep in the seventh Christmas co production with Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA) Group.

It runs from 18 November to 16 December with an original score and mix of students and professional actors.

Michael Penn, Executive Director of The Old Rep Theatre said: “Beauty and the Beast is an inspiring tale, perfect for children and families. The Old Rep are delighted to be teaming up with the BOA Group and the creative team behind last year’s wonderful ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to bring a fresh and exciting take on this classic story”.

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Dick Whittington

dick cast 

Dr Ranj, (Left) Suzanne Shaw, Andrew Ryan, Doreen Tipton. (Centre) Matt Slack. Picture: Simon Hadley

With the beast allocation filled it’s a stroll round the corner from The Old Rep to the Hippodrome and the region’s biggest panto, and this year it’s Dick Whittington.

The show was a smash hit at The London Palladium last year and will be arriving at the Hippodrome on 17 December 2022 and running to 29 January 2023.

Leading the pack, so to speak, is Marti Pellow as The Ratman . . . ratman, rat pack . . . please yourself . . .Also in there is tv doctor Dr Ranj who will be on call as Spirit of the Bells ready for any emergency.

And having a doctor in the house should make it easier for Doreen Tipton, playing the cat, (cash in hand, no publicity) to get regular sick notes for the benefits people – just don’t tell the social about the Christmas job.

Andrew Ryan will be no doubt be sending his frocks to Sketchley ready for his elevation to damehood once more. By our reckoning it is his 35th panto, and his 32nd as dame, this time he’s Felicity Fitzwarren.

While adding a bit of glamour will be Suzanne Shaw as Alice. Once of Hear'Say Shaw was an actress before that and has become an established West End star since.

And as for Dick Whittington . . . it would hardly be a Hippodrome panto without Matt Slack doing a turn again, appropriate as he is playing Dick. He is the epitome of audience favourite for all ages – my grandsons simply adore him.


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Jack and the Beanstalk

jack and co

Craig Hollingsworth as Simple Simon and Iain Lauchlan as the udder one, Dame Trott

And speaking of audience favourites Coventry Belgrade has Iain Lauchlan and Craig Hollingsworth back together again this year with Lauchlan playing Dame Trott and Hollingsworth as Dame Trott’s son, Simple Simon, residents of the village of Prickly Bottom.

Lauchlan has once more written and directed the panto and this will be his 23rd Belgrade panto as a dame.

Andy Hockley returns for his first Belgrade panto since 2011 as the giant’s henchman Fleshcreep. He’s appeared in 16 Belgrade Panto’s and has a wealth of West End experience including the longest run yet playing the wizard in Wicked.

Morna MacPherson is back as Jack after playing the role in the Belgrade’s welcome festive contribution in the dark days of 2020 with their Jack and the Beanstalk Online in the Christmas lockdown.

Also returning for his third Belgrade panto is David Gilbrook as the King with Rochelle Hollis as the King’s daughter, Princess Poppy while Emma Mulkern joins the cast as Fairy Fennel.

Jack will be battling the giant from 23 November to 7 January, 2023

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

snow cast

Snow White, prince, dame and dwarfs. Picture: Pamela Raith

Heading into the dark forests and magic castles of Lichfield we find Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.

Lichfield legend Sam Rabone, from Sutton Coldfield incidentally, returns in his seventh panto, and the fifth he’s directed.

Speaking at the launch he said: “What a magnificent seven we have too! From a handsome Prince to an evil queen, this panto has it all! With all new jokes this year (and some old ones we should probably know better than to use again), I can't wait to hear the first few bars of Bring Me Sunshine and bring you the fairest panto of them all!”

The cast includes Maria Conneely, who was Lizzie in last year’s All New Adventures of Peter Pan, and George Akid who was an ugly sister on 2019’s  Cinderella, along with Daniel Breakwell as Prince Charming and Lindsay Bennett-Thompson as the Wicked Queen.

Snow White will be joined on stage by the Magnificent Seven, including familiar faces such as Brian Wheeler (Star Wars) as Brian, and Dean Whatton (Game of Thrones, Call the Midwife) as Sarge. There’s also Liam Roche as Groover, George Coppen as Striker, Jack Hilton as Cheeky, Isaac Napoli as Loopy, and Geoffrey Sergison as Sniffly.

Matt Clay, Interim Executive Manager of the Lichfield Garrick, says, “We’ve faced many challenges this year, so we’re delighted to be bringing our annual festive treat back in full force.”

The show opens on 25 November and runs to 8 January, 2023, the run having been extended by a week due to demand.

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Its not all behind you, oh no it isn’t, when it comes to the festive season so if panto is not your thing, or you just want an alternative, or just want a visit to the theatre, its all there from West End  shows to a Dicken’s classic, Mr Toad to a school nativity play Carlsberg would be proud of.

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The Dreams

Christmas at the Alex sees a musical that has been packing them in for 41 years embarking on its first UK tour. It tells the story of The Dreamettes, one of the all girl, black backing groups employed to give a bit of glamour, choreography, harmony and doo wop backing to predominantly male artists.

Perhaps the most famous of their number was The Supemes, who started life as the Primettes and despite denials, presumably originally to keep lawyers at bay, the similarities between The Supremes and The Dreamettes, soon to become  The Dreams, is undeniable.

The road might be different but the direction and journey are the same even down to the fictional The Dreams becoming Deena Jones & the Dreams in Las Vegas in 1967 while in the real world Las Vegas in 1967 saw The Supremes rebranded as Diana Ross & the Supremes.

The musical is a love story, a story of hope, of ambition, of exploitation, of despair and sadness, but most of all it is packed with some cracking songs that would have been right at home in the era. Nicole Raquel Dennis as Effie gives the show a hairs on the neck moment with the anthem I am Changing. Effie, based loosely on Florence Ballard, is moody, suffers from depression. Misses rehearsals and turns to booze, finally being sacked.

Deena Jones, based on Ross, played by Natalie Kassanga, went from strength to strength, becoming not just lead singer but the name Deena Jones and the Dreams.

The baby of the group was Lorell Robinson, played by Paige Peddie, and based on Mary Wilson.

Brandon Lee Sears plays Jimmy Early, an extrovert amalgam of the likes of Godfather of Soul James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson.

The Alexandra Theatre will be taking you back on a journey to Motown and the 60s from 6 December through to New Year’s Eve.

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Nativity the musical

Nativity pic

Back in 2017 Nativity The Musical had its world premiere at Birmingham Rep. It was sent out into the big wide world, or at least around the Mway, A roads and B roads of the UK on extensive tours in 2018 and 2019 to be seen my more than a million people.

It was all set for a triumphal return to the Rep at Christmas 2020 – except Covid put paid to that, as did the rescheduled festive homecoming in 2021 so, third Christmas lucky, the pupils of St Bernadette's primary in Coventry, along with teacher Mr Maddens played by Billy Roberts, (Rock of Ages tour) and his assistant, Mr Poppy (Ben Lancaster)  will be back on stage from 19 November to 7 January 2023 planning their spectacular (they hope) nativity play

The cast also includes Daisy Steers (Jersey Boys tour) as Jennifer and Jemma Churchill (Doctor Who, Doctors) back in the role she created in that 2017 world premiere, Mrs Bevan.

Adding the spice of competition is Gordon Shakespeare, played by Matthew Rowland (School of Rock tour) the somewhat pompous head of the private and well funded rival primary school.

Throw in Hollywood and a love story and it’s a tale to warm the cockles of your heart.

The musical features songs from the film including Sparkle and Shine, Nazareth, One Night One Moment and She's The Brightest Star.

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Derby Theatres

The Wind in the Willows

wind pantos

It’s 11 years since Toby Hulse’s adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s children’s classic premiered at The Watermill Theatre in Berkshire, since when it has become a firm family favourite and sees a new production at Derby when once more the jovial, flamboyant Toad, with his penchant for Romany caravans and fast motor cars, will be creating mayhem along the riverbank.

Derby has assembled a cast of actor/musicians to bring Toad’s tale to life as we encounter Mole and Badger, Ratty and, of course the baddies, the gang of weasels and stoats. It is an enchanting tale with the promise of an enchanting production for all ages from young children to not so young grannies and grandpas.

The wind will be rustling the willows from 25 November to 31 December.

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Ugly Duckling 

In their nest at the edge of a pond, the baby ducklings wait impatiently for Mummy’s enormous egg to hatch. But their new brother doesn’t look like everyone else. He doesn’t even quack like a proper duckling!

Teased and called Ugly by his siblings, our hero goes on an adventure in search of a place to fit in. As the seasons change the woodland trees from dark weathered branches to silver sticks of frost, the lost and lonely fledgling meets a menagerie of mischievous animals…. But where does he really belong?

This charming production, written by Emma Reeves, plays with the importance of identity, self-worth and takes us on a journey to discover inner beauty. Paddling on from 1-31 December.

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Lichfield Garrick

The Bah Humbug Club

bah humbug

Érin Geraghty, Danny Horn, Beck Greig and Rosie Coles take on the roles of four incompatible Christmasphobics playing an elf collector, an internet troll, a streaker, and a Nirvana fan.

The Bah Humbug Club begins in 1999 with four strangers who don’t like Christmas spending it together by chance only for them to choose to spend the next 20 Christmases together.

Irish actor, Érin Geraghty brings decades of screen and stage experience with a career which began in 1966, when she was chosen to dance in a film with Julie Andrews. Érin takes on the role of Pauline, the main protagonist, the glue that holds the club together.

She said: “Christmas is so overhyped that many people find it overwhelming and for many, it’s a painful lonely time. The Bah Humbug Club is the perfect Adult Antidote to it all! A Christmas show for those who don’t like Christmas!”

Beck Greig brings experience from immersive theatre productions in London to bring the the role of Curt Cobain and Nirvana loving Andy, now a successful human rights lawyer, to life.

Danny Horn, with a CV that includes Doctor Who and Vera, plays Fred a cricket fan and streaker who joins that first Christmas in 1999 in the hope of cleaning up his act while Birmingham actress Rosie Coles is Jane, secretly an internet troll. The 20 club Christmases follow her failed love life, but is there finally a happy ending for Jane in store in this season of bah and humbug? Written by Carolyn Scott-Jeffs you can have a Christmas missing any hint of merry but with a sackful of laughs at the club from 8-27 December.

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Royal Shakespeare Company

A Christmas Carol


Picture: Manuel Harlan

Adrian Edmondson will play Ebenezer Scrooge in this  critically acclaimed adaptation of Charles Dicken’s Christmas Classic.

The production was a smash hit in 2017 and 2018 and the tale of the miserly Scrooge and his redemption promises another spectacular festive season on the banks of the Avon.

Mitesh Soni, last seen in these parts in a brilliant performance in The Play What I Wrote at Birmingham Rep , makes his RSC debut as Bob Cratchit

Incidentally, next year sees the 170th anniversary of Dicken’s first public reading of A Christmas Carol which was at Birmingham Town Hall to support the fledgling Birmingham and Midland Institute which was to officially open the following year.

Dickens read from A Christmas Carol on Tuesday, 27 December and again on Friday, 30 December, the second reading, at his request, for an audience solely from the working classes. He also read The Cricket on The Hearth, another of his Christmas short stories, on Thursday, 29 December.

The reading of Scrooge’s tale of revelations and redemption took three and a quarter hours and was the first of 127 readings of his works that Dickens was to take around the country, including return visits to Birmingham, the last reading being in London three months before his death in 1870.

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The Albany Coventry

A Christmas Carol 2022

Albany Carol

Coventry’s other theatre brings Charles Dicken’s tale to life from 3-26 Decemberwith a generous helping of Christmas Spirit a few ghostly moments all on a classy set seen here being constructed in a time lapse video.  

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Christmas for little ones

Birmingham Rep

Jack and the Magic Beanstalk

jack's beanstalk

Pantos are not really designed for little ones, often too brash, too noisy and even too scary.

So Birmingham Rep has filled that festive gap with Jack and the Magic Beanstalk aimed at three to six year olds.

Directed by Rep Associate Artist, Caroline Wilkes, Jack and the Magic Beanstalk is a brand new adaptation of the classic fairy tale, featuring captivating puppetry and joyful live music.

Written by acclaimed children’s theatre playwright Katherine Chandler (The Princess and the Pea; The Ugly Duckling), Jack and the Magic Beanstalk will play in the Rep’s most intimate space of The Door from Wed 7 – Sat 31 Dec 2022.

Jack loves his Mum, and his Mum loves Jack. Jack also loves his grub and dreams of food. The extremely greedy Giant loves food too, but doesn’t leave enough for all to share. Join Jack on his fantastical, festive adventure of magical beans, golden harps and towering beanstalks, as he climbs to the land above the clouds to teach the Giant a jolly good lesson.

Director Caroline Wilkes said; “I am thrilled to be directing this brand new immersive production of Jack and the Magic Beanstalk for our youngest audiences at The Rep.

“The show, made especially for 3 to 6 year olds, will have live music, puppetry and physical story telling in a reimagining of this well-known tale.”

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The last panto of the season

(or is it the first for 2023?)


Mother Goose

mother goose

Eggs-tra! Eggs-tra! Ambassador Theatre Group productions proudly present MOTHER GOOSE, the nation’s pantomime starring Ian McKellen, John Bishop and Mel Giedroyc. Written by Jonathan Harvey and directed by Cal McCrystal.

Starring Ian McKellen as Mother Goose, John Bishop as Vic Goose and Mel Giedroyc as the Goose, the show will play at Wolverhampton Grand from Wednesday 22 – Sunday 26 February 2023.

This very special pantomime is written by Jonathan Harvey (Coronation Street, Gimme Gimme Gimme) and directed by award-winning director Cal McCrystal

Mother Goose (McKellen) and her husband Vic (Bishop) run an Animal Sanctuary for waifs and strays and live a wholesome life inside an abandoned Debenhams. But when a goose (Giedroyc) flies in, will fame and fortune get the better of them?! Will Ma’s feathers be seriously ruffled? Will Pa tell everyone to get stuffed?! And is their fair life about to turn fowl? Get ready for fairies with hefty vocal chords, puppets with tap dance qualifications and impeccably constructed mayhem that will quack up the whole family. This hilarious family-friendly mother of all pantos is the ultimate theatrical feast full of fun, farce and more than a couple of surprises that will make you honk out loud.

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Panto's 2000 year old tradition 

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