For the first time in recent years, York is hosting three professional pantomimes this Christmas. And there are other festive shows too. But which to pick? Here’s our guide to the seasonal set-to
Robin Hood and his Merry Mam! York Theatre Royal
Tagline: ‘York’s favourite panto’
The story In this York 800 year, the action is set in 1212, when Robin Hood has to save the rightful heirs to the throne from the evil Prince John and Sheriff Hutton of Nottingham.
The stars The biggest dame in panto, not to mention the writer and co-director, Berwick Kaler stars in his 40th panto, 34 of them at the Theatre Royal. His supporting cast are like familiar friends to the many Yorkies who go every year, including Martin Barrass and Suzy Cooper. But this year we have a new baddie with Jonathan Race as the Sheriff (David Leonard is in the hit London musical Matilda).
Strongest points A cracking show with real family appeal. You feel part of something special and one of York’s great annual traditions.
Weakest points Can sometimes go on a bit longer than the little ones like.
What the critics say “The defining memory is that of Kaler suspended several feet above the stage in full, Margot Fonteyn-mode. Really, it’s tutu much.” The Guardian on 2011 show The York Family Robinson
- Where: York Theatre Royal, St Leonard’s Place, York
- When: Thursday, December 13 to Saturday, February 2
- Tickets: On the Theatre Royal website
- Price: Cheapest: £10. Priciest: £26.
Sleeping Beauty, the Grand Opera House
Tagline: ‘York’s favourite family pantomime’
The story One of the truly timeless fairy tales. Princess Beauty is snoozing away after being cursed by the evil fairy Carabosse. She is doomed to slumber forever unless she can be awoken by true love’s kiss.
The stars Deena Payne played Viv Hope in Emmerdale for 18 years, has toured with Calendar Girls and is a panto favourite. She is joined by “Supersonic” Syd Little, one half of comedy act Little And Large – he was last on the Grand Opera House stage in the 2010 production of Cinderella.
Strongest points After 14 years running of consecutive Grand Opera House pantos, this is a night of warm, dependable fun by seasoned professionals, with all the staples – audience participation, singing and dancing and slapstick. You’ll leave with a smile on your face.
Weakest points Originality is not its forté.
What the critics say “The show is amiable, perky, reliable, but one day it should surely be more than that?” Charles Hutchinson, The York Press, on 2011 show Aladdin
- Where: The Grand Opera House, Cumberland Street, York
- When: Friday, December 14 to Sunday, January 6
- Tickets: From the ATG website
- Price: Cheapest: £15. Priciest: £25
The young pretender
Tagline: ‘York’s biggest panto’
The story Ugly sisters, downtrodden Cinders, fairy godmother, ball, midnight flit, discarded slipper, enchanted price, happy ever after.
The stars Now 23, Dani Harmer is still most strongly associated with her child role as Tracy Beaker which is repeated ad nauseum on CBBC. But she has found a new audience as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing. She is joined by another reality TV star, King Of The Jungle Joe Swash.
Strongest points The cast – these are big names for the family market, who are likely to bring in the crowds. Although Dani will miss the opening shows because of her Strictly commitments
Weakest points This is the Barbican’s first Christmas panto (although they did an Easter “panto” starring Dani earlier this year) – so it’s an unknown quantity
What the critics say “All in all it was an evening of good family entertainment. Roll on Christmas” Leslie Tuke in YorkMix on the Easter panto The Wizard Of Oz
- Where: York Barbican, Paragon Street, York
- When: Friday, December 21 to Sunday, December 30
- Tickets: From the York Barbican website
- Price: All tickets £20
The new kid on the block
Ruby & the 13th Door, Merchant Adventurers’ Hall
The story Based on a lesser known Grimms’ fairy tale, the story sees Ruby embark on a whirlwind adventure through dark forests and a magical world in the clouds, before, in a spellbindingly tense climax she learns a simple but profound lesson – ‘Tell the truth and you will be forgiven’.
The stars A cast of unknown young talent has been assembled from across the country. The writer is award-winning composer Martyn Swain, formerly of The Waterboys.
Strongest points Brand new songs from a man with a fantastic musical track record, a new story, and the magical setting of the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall.
Weakest points This is the world premiere so it may lack the polish of more seasoned productions.
- Where: The Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, Fossgate, York
- When: December 19 and 20
- Tickets: From the production website
- Price: Cheapest: £10 Priciest: £12
The community champion
Cinderella, Joseph Rowntree Theatre
The story Ugly sisters, downtrodden Cinders, fairy godmother… see above
The stars Are all upstanding members of the York citizenry who put on the greasepaint in their spare time. This is the centenary of the players, so they know what they’re doing.
- Where: Joseph Rowntree Theatre, Haxby Road, York
- When: Saturday, December 8 to Saturday, December 15
- Tickets: From the Positickets box office website
- Price: Cheapest: £10. Priciest: £13
A Christmas Carol
The story Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is visited on Christmas Eve by three ghosts, and wakes the next morning a much more agreeable, if financially reckless, fellow.
The stars This is a Nightshade Productions show, behind such originals as A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the streets of York and the All Hallows experience at Halloween. That took place in the Golden Fleece pub, the same venue for A Christmas Carol
- Where: The Golden Fleece, Pavement, York
- When: Wednesday, December 5 to Saturday, December 22
- Tickets: From the Theatre Royal website
- Price: Cheapest: £10. Priciest: £12. All profits to the NSPCC