A great double act in James Peake and Robin Johnson back at the Key, Corrie favourite Steven Arnold at The Cresset and Peterborough stage legend Michel Cross back in a frock can only mean one thing - panto season is just around the corner.
Kicking it all off on December 1 is Dick Whittington at the Key Theatre.
The story of Dick Whittington, the poor boy who finds fame and fortune thanks to his feline friend, promises to build on the successes of three consecutive, record-breaking, sell-out pantos at the Key – Cinderella (2013), Jack and the Beanstalk (2014) and Aladdin (2015).
A side-splitting production genuinely like no other, with jokes and songs geared directly at Peterborough patrons, features a ‘purr-fect’ original script from acclaimed theatre-maker Brad Fitt. And there is a welcome return for composer Simon Egerton, who will not only write original music and lyrics for the fourth year in a row but, once again, occupies the director’s chair.
It promises to be a foot tapping, swinging style of comedy that has proved so popular since Cinderella (2013).
Darren Machin returns as the dame Sarah the Cook. In stark contrast to his TV appearances in Downton Abbey and New Tricks, Darren was in the West End with Privates on Parade and has worked with legendary dame Terry Scott as well as comedy greats Eric Sykes, Ray Cooney and Carry On’s Bernard Bresslaw.
Familiar faces James Peake and Robin Johnson, both hilarious in Jack and the Beanstalk and Aladdin, are back as comical Idle Jack and the evil King Rat.
Helen Power (Aladdin) returns as the bubbly fairy Bowbells and Emma-Jane Morton (Aladdin) swaps her clarinet playing panda for an equally impressive multi-instrumentalist Tommy the Cat.
Newcomers Ros Steele and Robert Hazle are no strangers to the Key, having toured here with the hit Peterborough-based musical Parkway Dreams, plus Edward York spent his first 28 years around Peterborough only to find himself drawn back by the promise of Panto sparkle.
A veteran of the Key pit, Lewis Hall returns as musical director.
Dick Whittington runs from December 1 to January 8 - with 70 shows to choose from . Contact the box office on 01733 207239.
Across the city in Bretton, the likable Steven Arnold - a memorable Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz last year - returns with cutlass and pirate hat as Captain Hook in Peter Pan.
Zach Vanderfelt, the Cresset’s regular pantomime dame, will be back to rock a frock as Mrs Smee, while Victoria Studd plays Wendy and Jessica Woods is Tinkerbell. Experience the magic of this classic fantasy adventure with a pantomime twist, by joining Peter Pan and Tinkerbell on their journey.
With Pirates, Indians, mermaids, stunning flying sequences and of course Captain Hook and the crocodile, all given the panto treatment by Premier Pantomimes, it promises to be the venue’s biggest panto yet.
There are almost 40 performances from December 10 to 30. Contact the box office on 01733 265705.
Back on stage together for a second year are long-time Key Theatre collaborators Michael Cross and Simon Aylin at the Stahl Theatre in Oundle.
Simon’s Telling Tales Theatre Company is putting on Cinderella from December 19 to 23, written and directed by Simon.
Join the dashing Prince Charming, the horrid ugly sisters, the lovable Buttons (Simon), the enchanting Fairy Godmother (Michael) and of course, the beautiful Cinderella at the ball and make it a Christmas to remember for the whole family. Simon says: “It’s so much fun bringing Pantomime to my local area. I’ve just finished writing Pantomimes that will star TV’s Pauline Quirke, Coronation Street’s Ryan Thomas and Union J’s Jaymi Hensley. I’m really looking forward to seeing those shows - they’ll be spectacular big budget performances.
“ But there is something uniquely special about Pantomime at the Stahl in Oundle. It’s such an intimate venue and that means there is a really special relationship between the cast and the audience. They’ll be some great jokes, some real magic and some great pop music people will know and love.”
He added: “We’re so lucky to have Michael Cross return to be our Dame again this year. I’ve worked with so many Dames in my career, but Michael is the best. I worked with him at the Key Theatre and learnt so much from him. It’s a real privilege to be getting to go onstage with him once again. We’re going to have so much fun together.”
There will be plenty of young talent on stage in the chorus too, with children from the Oundle Performing Arts Academy and Peterborough’s Tu Danse performing.
“We’ve been rehearsing with them already and they really complete the show. The pros on stage will have to really perform their socks off to match the local kids’ enthusiasm for the show,” he added.
Stamford Pantomime Players have been putting on pantomimes for over 60 years, and this year it is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. There will be more than 90 in the cast - ranging from five-year-olds to those in their seventies. You can see it at the Stamford Corn Exchange Theatre from December 27 to January 1.
And later that week Polka Dot Pantomimes return to Stamford Arts Centre with a witty, sparkly and truly fabulous Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, with regular dame John Highton playing Nurse Nelly.
The family classic runs from January 6 to 9. Contact the box office on 01780 763 203.
And at Spalding’s South Holland centre expect spellbinding scenery, dazzling costumes, amazing special effects and even a dancing dog in Beauty and the Beast
This year’s festive offering features returning star Emma Wilson as the beautiful Belle. Emma has many theatre and stage credits to her name including starring in Cinderella, Dick Whittington and Snow White. She has also appeared as Sandy in Grease and Lola in Copacabana.
Also returning is Danielle Pedel. After playing the mischievous fairy Tinkerbell in last year’s Peter Pan this year she returns as Fairy Flambe!
The hilarious Luke Glover brings his unique comedy to the stage playing Muddles, accompanied by legendary Dame Vince Williams as Dolly Doughnut!
Completing the professional cast is the handsome Ben Gordon as Prince Lucien, Natasha Brooke as the evil Grimalkin and veteran Peter Dineen as the mad cap Maurice, who alongside professional dancers and local youngsters will enthral audiences.
You can see it from December 10-31. Tickets - £14.50, £13.50 concs, £13 per person for a family ticket - from the Box Office 01775 764777 or www.southhollandcentre.co.uk.