BroadwayWorld's Top Christmas Picks For London Theatre
There are plenty of seasonal treats served up in the capital this year, from pantos and plays to opera and dance. Here are some of the tastiest morsels for the 2018-19 festive period.
Once again, the Palladium's offering is a grand, star-studded affair: Snow White features Charlie Stemp, Danielle Hope, Dawn French, Julian Clary, Gary Wilmot and Nigel Havers (9 Dec-13 Jan, 2019; book tickets here).
In fact, it's A Christmas Carol galore: Chickenshed has a 1930s-set version (21 Nov-5 Jan, 2019; book tickets here), London Musical Theatre Orchestra a Broadway take, starring Griff Rhys Jones (10-17 Dec; book tickets here), and there's Simon Callow's acclaimed one-man show at the Arts Theatre (8 Dec-12 Jan, 2019; book tickets here).
Susie McKenna and Hackney Empire celebrate 20 years of joyfully inclusive pantos with Aladdin, starring Clive Rowe, Tameka Empson, Kat B and Gemma Sutton (24 Nov-6 Jan, 2019; book tickets here), while Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd give their - no doubt contemporary and irreverent - take on Dick Whittington at Lyric Hammersmith (17 Nov-6 Jan, 2019; book tickets here), the theatre's 10th anniversary pantomime.
Prepare for sublime silliness at The Other Palace, where Patrick Barlow (The 39 Steps) has Hugh Dennis, John Marquez and Lesley Garrett enacting the greatest story ever told in The Messiah (3 Dec-5 Jan, 2019; book tickets here; also selected dates at Richmond Theatre). And there's rocking spectacle at the Southbank Centre's Rumpelstiltskin, led by Australian cabaret legend Paul Capsis (18 Dec-6 Jan, 2019; book tickets here).
Paul Merton, Lee Ryan and magician Pete Firman star in Aladdin at New Wimbledon Theatre (8 Dec-6 Jan, 2019; book tickets here), and Robert Lindsay makes his panto debut as Hook in Peter Pan at Richmond Theatre (8 Dec-6 Jan, 2019; book tickets here),
Matthew Xia helms a new musical version of Sleeping Beauty at Theatre Royal Stratford East (1 Dec-12 Jan, 2019; book tickets here), King's Head hosts boutique panto Buttons: A Cinderella Story (23 Nov-5 Jan, 2019; book tickets here), and A Box of Delights returns to Wilton's Music Hall (30 Nov-5 Jan, 2019; book tickets here).
Last but not least, there are two enticing takes on a Brothers Grimm classic. Antony McDonald's storybook staging of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at the Royal Opera House should appeal to both opera buffs and newcomers of all ages (11-29 Dec; book tickets here), while Rose Theatre Kingston's Hansel & Gretel features magical beasts, music and adventure (6 Dec-6 Jan, 2019; book tickets here).
Tall Stories' Olivier-nominated adaptation of Julia Donaldson's beloved book, Room on the Broom Live, comes to Lyric Theatre (ages 3+; 23 Nov-13 Jan, 2019; book tickets here), while Polka Theatre offers newly devised, interactive stories via In the Winter Wood (ages 3-6; 29 Nov-17 Feb, 2019; book tickets here).
At the Unicorn Theatre, Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales follow witches and magical creatures (ages 8+; until 6 Jan, 2019), while Huddle has heartwarming penguin exploits (ages 2-5; until 6 Jan, 2019). Plus join a gingerbread house-making workshop, creative Christmas feast, first show for babies, or make your own penguin pals (more info and book for all here).
The zany world of Dr Seuss bursts forth in Seussical at Southwark Playhouse (all ages; 22 Nov-29 Dec; book tickets here), enjoy an imaginative advent countdown in Can't Wait for Christmas! at the Orange Tree (ages 3+; 14 Dec-5 Jan, 2019; book tickets here), or join Danny and Dani Dyer, Jo Brand and Simon Lipkin at feel-good favourite Nativity! The Musical at Eventim Apollo (ages 3+; 19-31 Dec; book tickets here).
And there's plenty of seasonal delights at Alexandra Palace, reopening following a £27 million restoration project. The Christmas Carnival features a market, Santa's Grotto, workshops, musical performances and ice skating, plus the Horrible Histories team supply hair-raising adventures in Horrible Christmas (ages 4+; 13-30 Dec; book tickets here).
If your panto experience this year is sans kids, there are adult amusements to be had at Above The Stag's risqué Mother Goose Cracks One Out! (27 Nov-12 Jan, 2019; book tickets here).
Southwark Playhouse has Anthony Neilson's "South Park meets Miracle on 34th Street by way of Scrooged" dark comedy The Night Before Christmas (28 Nov-29 Dec; book tickets here), and Neilson also adapts Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart for the National Theatre (5 Dec-9 Jan, 2019; book tickets here).
Comedy wise, the Pub Landlord is back in Al Murray Presents the Twelve Days of Christmas at Leicester Square Theatre (11-23 Dec; book tickets here), and there's music, philosophy and surreal meanderings via Bill Bailey: Larks in Transit at Wyndham's Theatre (3 Dec-5 Jan, 2019; book tickets here).
Or just ditch the festive theming and go straight for Magic Mike Live... (until 27 Oct, 2019; book tickets here).
THOSE DANCING FEET
Perennial favourite The Nutcracker is at the Royal Opera House, with Marianela Nuñez, Sarah Lamb and Lauren Cuthbertson among the rep casts leading the Royal Ballet's ravishing Peter Wright version (3 Dec-15 Jan, 2019; book tickets here; also broadcast in cinemas).
Meanwhile, English National Ballet has Wayne Eagling's slightly darker Nutcracker, with principals including Rina Kanehara and Fernando Carratalá Coloma (13-30 Dec; book tickets here), and, also at the Coliseum, Derek Deane's thrilling Jurgita Dronina and Isaac Hernández-led Swan Lake (3-13 Jan, 2019; book tickets here).
Matthew Bourne revives his iconic gender-switched Swan Lake at Sadler's Wells, refreshed for the 21st century. The Swans are played by Will Bozier, Matthew Ball and Max Westwell, the Princes Liam Mower, Dominic North and James Lovell (4 Dec-27 Jan, 2019; book tickets here).
The Royal Ballet also offers a delightful mixed bill of Frederick Ashton's Les Patineurs, Kenneth MacMillan's Winter Dreams and Jerome Robbins's The Concert (18 Dec-4 Jan, 2019; book tickets here), while the Southbank Centre evokes a golden age via puppetry, acrobats and more in Circus 1903 (19 Dec-5 Jan, 2019; book tickets here).
And finally, it wouldn't be Christmas without The Snowman. Robert North and Bill Alexander's irresistible version of Raymond Briggs is now in its 21st year at the Peacock Theatre, and still charming audiences (22 Nov-6 Jan, 2019; book tickets here).
As well as the Christmas specials, there are dozens of West End wonders to enjoy. Find great deals here on everything from Kinky Boots, Les Miserables, Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera and Dreamgirls to School of Rock, The Lion King, Motown, Matilda, Tina and Company.
Happy festive theatre-going!