Panto guide for England 2015/16

Behind The Scenes At Hackney Empire: Puss In Boots

It's getting towards that time of year again (oh yes it is!), when grown men dress as women and young women dress as men – and the corny jokes start flying thick and fast. So if you're looking for something to get your family into the festive spirit, we've picked out five of the best-looking shows happening in England (with the other home nations to follow)...

Cinderella – Richmond Theatre
Perhaps the most popular panto of them all will be given a shot of old-school acting class with the inclusion of Hayley Mills (yes, the Hayley Mills) as the Fairy Godmother at the Richmond Theatre this year. She'll be joined in the cast by TV personality and actor Matthew Kelly as one of the ugly sisters – with his son Matthew Rixon as the other - though your kids will probably be most-excited to see Chris Jarvis from the BBC's Show Me Show Me. And with performances running from December 5 to January 10, you'll have plenty of time to catch the show.

Aladdin – Birmingham Hippodrome
England's second city will be playing host to a star-studded feast of festive fun in this production of Aladdin this Christmas. Wet Wet Wet singer Marti Pellow will be joined by Julian Clary as "Slave of the ring" (aka the genie) and Any Dream Will Do winner Lee Mead in the title role. There's also a 3D flying carpet effect promised and shows run from December 19 to January 31.

Beauty and the Beast – Central Theatre Chatham
Jordan Productions have a great reputation for their funny, fast-paced and pop song-packed pantos – and this year's show in the Medway town of Chatham, Kent, looks set to be another corker. Parents will recognise Sue Holderness as Marlene from Only Fools And Horses – but here playing Malevolent – while the whole family will know The X Factor's Stevi Ritchie as he plays Potty Pierre. Running from December 10 to January 3, the show is booking now.

Sleeping Beauty – Preston Guild Hall
Preston Guild Hall draws panto lovers from across Lancashire – and further afield – for its annual festive shindig. And this year's production of Sleeping Beauty promises to be another reet good show, starring Archie Kelly (Kenny Senior from Phoenix Nights) as The King and Coronation Street star Jacqueline Leonard as Maleficent. They'll be joined by Phil Walker as Silly Billy at the venue from December 7 to January 2.

Peter Pan On Ice – York Barbican
A panto with a twist here, in that the Russian Ice Stars will be getting their skates on to recreate JM Barrie's classic kids' tale on a special rink built in the York Barbican. With a cast comprised of both actors and former international ice dancers, the show promises to combine drama with graceful athletic performance. The show runs from December 23 to January 3.

Are you taking the family to see a panto this year? Leave a comment below...

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