As ever, there’s a bumper range of pantos on offer — oh yes, there is — and ballet-lovers can choose between two different versions of The Nutcracker. There are Christmas-themed plays for audience members of all ages at venues big and small, as well as new musical productions. Here are our juiciest selections of the season. Enjoy!
The Menier’s winter-time musicals have long been something to savour and tuneful, circus-themed Barnum promises to be another treat. Comedian Marcus Brigstocke is impresario PT Barnum, the “greatest showman on Earth”, alongside musical theatre star Laura Pitt-Pulford as his loyal wife Charity.
Menier Chocolate Factory, SE1, tomorrow until Mar 3; menierchocolatefactory.com
The Box of Delights
Poet Laureate John Masefield’s beautiful Christmas-themed book from 1935, with its young orphan hero Kay Harker and haunting refrain “When the wolves were running”, has delighted generations of children and grown-ups. Now at last it is brought to the stage for the first time by a talented creative team; Matthew Kelly stars.
Wilton’s Music Hall, E1, Dec 1-Jan 6; wiltons.org.uk
Writer/director Susie McKenna and her crack team of Christmas theatre elves have long made Hackney the capital’s go-to panto destination, a home of quality and originality. It’s not a title they’ll want to relinquish.
Hackney Empire, E8, until Dec 31; hackneyempire.co.uk
A Christmas Carol
If ever a theatre doesn’t want to dwell on the ghosts of Christmas Past this year, it’s surely The Old Vic. Hopefully Harry Potter playwriting wizard Jack Thorne will cast the right sort of spell with his new version of the Dickens classic, starring the charismatic Rhys Ifans as Scrooge.
The Old Vic, SE1, until Jan 20; oldvictheatre.com
This year marks the centenary of Peter Pan genius JM Barrie’s rarely performed play for adults, in which rumours abound of an enchanted wood in a remote English village and a group of strangers gathers.
Southwark Playhouse, SE1, Nov 29-Dec 30; southwarkplayhouse.co.uk
Matthew Bourne and his groundbreaking New Adventures company returns with one of its best-loved dance shows, which audaciously transposes the Cinderella story to London in the Blitz. Cinderella’s love interest is now a dashing RAF pilot.
Sadler’s Wells, EC1, Dec 9-Jan 27; sadlerswells.com
Expect dick jokes galore as Julian Clary unleashes his waspish tongue on West End panto once more. Clary plays Spirit of the Bells, Elaine Paige is Queen Rat and lovable Charlie Stemp from Half a Sixpence is young master Whittington.
London Palladium, W1, Dec 9-Jan 14; dickwhittingtonpalladium.com
The Fitzrovia Radio Hour’s A Christmas Carol
Those crystalline 1940s voices from comedy troupe The Fitzrovia Radio Hour turn their mischief as well as their RP to Dickens, reimagining the classic story as a 1940s radio broadcast.
Paradiso Spiegeltent, WC2, Dec 8-30; christmasinleicestersquare.com
It’s nearly time! Lin-Manuel Miranda’s multi-award-winning, box-office-busting American musical smash hit, about American founding father and West Indian immigrant Alexander Hamilton, is almost upon us.
Victoria Palace, SW1, from Dec 6; hamiltonthemusical.co.uk
Jack and the Beanstalk
Wimbledon is one of the capital’s few long-standing purveyors of commercial panto, and this year it has scored a coup in snaffling former Hackney Empire favourite Clive Rowe to play Jack’s mother Dame Trot. Comedian Al Murray, of Pub Landlord fame, joins in the fun as Jack’s brother Idle Al.
New Wimbledon, SW19, Dec 9-Jan 14; atgtickets.com
Those who believe Christmas is a time for checking their privilege should head south of the river, where Stephen Daldry co-directs this piece about Europe’s largest unofficial refugee camp, the Calais Jungle. Among the cast are some performers with direct experience of life in the camp.
Young Vic, SE1, Dec 7-Jan 6; youngvic.org
Nativity! The Musical
Debbie Isitt adapts for the theatre her hit Brit films about a primary school staging its annual nativity play. The X Factor’s Louis Walsh makes his stage debut in the role of “Hollywood producer”. Might stardom beckon for the youngsters?
Eventim Apollo, W6, Dec 13-17; eventimapollo.co.uk
Jack and the Beanstalk
The Lyric certainly knows how to do Christmas, welcoming in family audiences aplenty with its annual panto knees-up. Comedian Vikki Stone, such a joyous baddie last year, returns as the evil beanstalk-topping giant Fleshcreep.
Lyric Hammersmith, W6, until Jan 6; lyric.co.uk
Ballet-lovers of all ages thrill to the sugar-plum-packed annual seasonal treat that The Nutcracker offers. London’s two premiere ballet companies, the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet, are both taking up a long residency in Nutcracker land and showing off some of their finest dancers.
ENB: London Coliseum, WC2, Dec 13-Jan 6; ballet.org.uk
Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, WC2, Dec 5-Jan 10; roh.org.uk
John Tiffany, the ever-inventive director who waved his magic wand over Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and Dennis Kelly, writer of Matilda the Musical, turn their attention to the little wooden puppet in a new adaptation that includes songs from the Disney film. Give a Little Whistle…
National’s Lyttelton, SE1, Dec 1-Apr 10; nationaltheatre.org.uk
The Snow Queen
Polka, one of the country’s leading theatre venues specifically for children, presents a new version of the Hans Christian Andersen story.
Polka, SW19, until Feb 4; polkatheatre.com
Snow White & Rose Red
The acclaimed RashDash company uses the Brothers Grimm fairy tale to present a refreshingly female-slanted show — no droopy heroines hanging around and awaiting rescue here — for ages five up.
Battersea Arts Centre, SW11, Nov 29-Dec 30; bac.org.uk
The Twilight Zone
Fans of the classic black-and-white Sixties CBS television series are in for a treat, as an adaptation of the sci-fi stories lands on stage for the first time. The Almeida, one of the capital’s classiest theatres, is sure to treat the stories well, and inventively.
Almeida, N1, Dec 5-Jan 27; almeida.co.uk
The West End’s current year-long celebration of Oscar Wilde offers something for younger folk at Christmas with this hour-long “musical adventure” based on his fairy tales. Expect characters from The Happy Prince, The Nightingale and the Rose and The Birthday of the Infanta. Tall Stories, the company behind the hugely successful stage adaptation of The Gruffalo, masterminds the fun.
Vaudeville, WC2, Dec 15-31, wildecreatures.com