Whether it’s a family tradition to visit London for a pre-Christmas show, or you’re visiting from abroad and have heard wonderful tales of British theatre, this guide is for you. From ballet to children’s shows, comedies to cabaret and pantos to West End classics, we’ve got them all. There’s something for everyone here. In fact, there are so many to choose from that we recommend you make a weekend of it or even a week. Book yourself into one of our London serviced apartments and make the most of the London pre-Christmas season.
What’s A Panto?
Before we get stuck into our listings, let’s quickly explain the bizarrely British tradition of the pantomime, fondly known as ‘panto’. Christmas in Britain goes hand-in-hand with a trip to the panto. It’s a family outing which pleases the young and the old, and forms part of the festive traditions for many families. A panto is musical comedy theatre found during the festive season. There tend to be some common elements. They are typically based around a traditional fairy tale. So you’ll see Peter Pan, Jack and the Beanstalk, or the Wizard of Oz, for example. The principal boy is usually played by a girl, whereas the main older woman’s role is played by a ‘panto dame’ – an older man in drag. Nowadays, panto dames are often played by celebrities. On top of this there are comedy animals and a sidekick. You can expect a whole heap of audience participation and a lot of topical jokes. There will likely be elements which fly over the heads of the younger audience, whilst leaving parents and grandparents in fits of laughter. We’ve listed several pantos amongst our shows below. If you’ve never been before, then make sure you get on board with this cultural experience with a difference.
1. Goldilocks and the Three Bears – London Palladium
With big name stars like Paul O’Grady and Julian Clary, it’s safe to assume that Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a must-see panto this year.
2. Goldilocks and the Three Musketeers – Battersea Arts Centre
Goldilocks again, but this time with a different spin: a swashbuckling adventure with plenty of chance for the audience to get involved.
3. The Nutcracker by the English National Ballet – Coliseum
In stark contrast to a panto is the immensely beautiful and perfectly choreographed Nutcracker by the English National Ballet. A magical ballet loved by many, where Christmas toys come to life.
4. The Snowman – Peacock Theatre
Ballet again, but with quite a different feel, The Snowman is a much-loved tale which will leave you tingling with Christmas spirit.
5. Nativity! The Musical – Eventim Apollo
Expect a laugh a minute and a good few feel-good teary moments with Nativity! The Musical. It’s based on the huge film hit.
6. Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever – The Duke of York’s Theatre
One for adoring toddler fans, Peppa, George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig may just give your little one the best day ever, in Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever.
7. Circus 1903 – Southbank Centre
Christmas on the South Bank is simply magical. Add in a trip to Circus 1903 after an amble around the market and you’ll have a perfect Christmassy experience.
8. Peter Pan Goes Wrong – Alexandra Palace Theatre
Peter Pan Goes Wrong is a true farcical comedy which lurches from one hilarious disaster to more hilarious disasters. This is a great one for all the family, including those bah-humbug teens.
9. Disney on Ice – SSE Arena, Wembley and The O2
Celebrating 100 years of magic, Disney on Ice is always a huge hit with pre-schoolers and primary aged children. It includes everyone’s favourite character from various Disney shows and classics.
10. Cinderella: A Wicked Mother of a Night Out! – The Vaults, Waterloo
One for teens and above, Cinderella: A Wicked Mother of a Night Out! is staged in a pub! With music and dancing and laughs a-plenty, this is the big-kids’ Christmas night out.
11. Mary Poppins – Prince Edward Theatre
It will be a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious night out at Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre this winter.
12. A Christmas Carol – The Old Vic
A Christmas Carol is a chance to see Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge in action. It’s a true classic and not one to let pass by.
13. White Christmas – The Dominion Theatre
A musical version of the well-known Bing Crosby film, White Christmas will leave you feeling utterly ready for Christmas.
14. Dick Whittington and His Cat – Hackney Empire
Expect some East End corkers and riotous laughs, with award-winning Clive Rowe as the star of the stage in Dick Whittington and His Cat.
15. Christmas at the Royal Albert Hall
Not just one show, but a chance to enjoy a range of delights from an awe-inspiring performance of Handel’s Messiah through to sing-a-long carols, Christmas at the Royal Albert Hall is a jam-packed programme.
16. Cinderella – Lyric Hammersmith
A very different Cinderella to the one previously mentioned, this Cinderella will have the classic Lyric edgy twist. Not suitable for very young children, but good for those over 6.
17. Sleeping Beauty – Greenwich Theatre
A classic fairy tale panto, Sleeping Beauty at Greenwich Theatre is perfect for all the poisoned-apple fans.
18. The Nativity Panto – A Not-So Silent Night – King’s Head Theatre
The Nativity Panto – A Not-So Silent Night is described as a ‘boutique’ panto and “respectful yet irreverent” in how it spins the classic nativity story.
19. Jack and His Giant Big Stalk – Sanctum Soho Hotel
Firmly one for adults only, Jack and His Giant Big Stalk is sure to be naughty but nice and a grown-up start to the festive season.
20. Stickman – Leicester Square Theatre
Back at the other end of the scale, the lovable Stickman and his family will be on stage at the Leicester Square Theatre.
21. Black Beauty – Southbank Centre
Puppetry at its best is here to entertain the whole family in Black Beauty.
22. The Snow Queen – Park Theatre
Discover a completely different telling of Hans Christian Anderson’s famous tale in the Snow Queen in Finsbury Park. Much fun and wonder is to be had with snowball fights but it’s not a brash panto.
23. The Little Match Girl – Sadler’s Wells, Clerkenwell
Again, Hans Christian Anderson is being taken to the stage once more with this heart-rending story of The Little Match Girl.
24. La Clique – Christmas in Leicester Square
Recommended for over-16s only, La Clique is an edgy adult cabaret taking place in the Spiegeltent at Christmas in Leicester Square. Expect jugglers, sword-swallowers and plenty of cabaret acts with a side-helping of smutty humour.
25. Christmas Carol: A Fairy Tale – Wilton’s Music Hall, Wapping
Christmas Carol at Wilton’s Music Hall is quite a different take on this Dickensian classic. Scrooge is set to be played by a woman and there are plenty of puppets jostling for attention on the stage. So what will you see? Check out our best accommodation in London for theatre goers or give us a call on +44 (0) 208 004 0007. You can also find a London serviced apartment close to any of these theatres by using the search button at the top of this page.