Now that Edinburgh's Christmas programme is out of the bag, it's time to look at what festive shows city theatres have planned for us.
The Victorian tradition of pantomime is still very much alive and well with several theatres returning with new shows that have the classic panto ingredients of cross-dressing, singing, and audience participation, wrapped in a modern adaptation of a classic fairy tale.
- Royal Lyceum Theatre's Snow Queen
- Traverse Theatre's Three Muskateers
- King's Theatre's Jack and the Beanstalk
- Christmas Carols
- Beyond city centre: Leith Festival, Brunton, and Morningside
- Non-Christmas musicals
Even if the cooling effects of La Nina don't deliver the forecasted white christmas this year, the Royal Lyceum Theatre is promising ice and snow throughout December with its production of The Snow Queen.
Veteran panto playwright Stuart Paterson has adapted Hans Christan Andersen's classic fairy tale of a wicked Snow Queen who banishes warmth and sunshine from her frozen kingdom. But when the wicked Queen casts her spell on wee Kay, turning his heart cold and his view of the world grim, his close friend Gerda sets out with the beasts of the forest and the sun spirit Bhima to save him and humanity from eternal chill.
The show for ages 5+ is directed by Lyceum artistic director Mark Thomson (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, 2008) and stars Allison McKenzie (Macbeth, River City) as the wicked queen. The show runs 2-31 December.
The Traverse's artistic director Dominic Hill directs a script by Chris Hannan which riffs on Alexandre Dumas's classic story of the heroic swordfighters from Paris.
There's not just an evil cardinal to contend with, but also baby-eating monsters, as young sword-fighter D’Artagnan embarks on a quest to enrole the elusive three muskateers to save the city and the Spanish Princess Constance.
The Traverse production is aimed at ages 8+ (the baddies are meant to be “really horrible”) and runs in Traverse 1 from 4-24 December.
Most of the classic panto ingredients can be found on a grand scale at the annual King's Theatre's Jack and the Beanstalk, one of 22 shows being put on (up and down the country) by UK pantomime specialist Qdos Entertainment.
Allan Stewart plays the role of Dame May McTrot, Andy Gray is King Crumble and Grant Stott takes on the baddie role as the giant’s henchman Fleshcreep.
Qdos, which has been behind previous King’s Theatre pantomimes, prides itself on its high-end sets and effects technology. This year's panto features a computer controlled giant and a beanstalk that climbs up through the auditorium to 35 feet.
The show, written and directed by Paul Elliott, has one of the longest runs from 4 December 2010 to 23 January 2011.
Dickens's A Christmas Carol is the quintessential tale for this time of year. Ebenezer Scrooge learns the folly of his mean ways after being visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future in The Playhouse's "Scrooge the Musical" (opening today, til 13 December; buy tickets). It features illusions by magician Paul Kieve (who created magic effects for Harry Potter films) and the Oscar nominated hit 'Thank You Very Much'.
Scrooge and friends are also among the Scottish Storytelling Centre's festive events, with Mike Maran retelling the story of A Christmas Carol with music from Alison Stephens.
If you can't make it to the theatre, Alastair Sim's wonderful performance as Scrooge in the black-and-white 1951 film A Christmas Carol is always worth a viewing at this time of year to get into the christmas spirit. Sim, a former rector of Edinburgh University, was born and raised in Edinburgh. The Filmhouse has a plaque to him.
Leith Festival – which takes place in the Summer - is holding its first ever Christmas panto entitled "A-Lad-In Leith" (8-15 December). As the title of writer-director Tony Delicata's production suggests it's a traditional panto in which Aladdin (Ewan Laing) “sets about saving the good people of Leith from the evil council worker Abanazar who wants to marry the Princes”.
“Please note that there are very few tram jokes!” we have been told. The show is at The Gate in Ocean Terminal.
The Brunton Theatre, in Musselburgh, meanwhile, has taken Mother Goose and given it a local twist. The wicked demon Vainglorious tries to come between the loveliest girl in Musselburgh (who he fancies) and Prince Jack who lives in Carberry Tower by casting a spell on the Princes' cook Mother Goose. Mother Goose runs from 23 November to 31 December.
The Edinburgh People's Theatre in Morningside have plumped for an old family fave for their annual panto with Humpty Dumpty (10-19 December at the Church Hill Theatre). Shell out £7 to £9 for cracking humour and eggsceptional puns. No yoking!
I can hear you groaning already. If pantomime dames and yelling “He's behind you!” is not your thing, the Festival Theatre and the Playhouse offer a slight change in tone with both venues showing musicals over the Christmas season.
The musical version of kitsch king John Waters's Hairspray comes to The Playhouse stage in December (14 December- 9 January, buy tickets). While big hair is a major feature of the Sixties America bubblegum backstory, it's not of the bushy, white, facial variety.
There's also a homage to Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 in the musical "Thriller Live" at The Playhouse (6-11 December, buy tickets). The high octane show features songs such as I Want You Back, I'll Be There, Show You The Way To Go, Can You Feel It, Rock With You, She's Out Of My Life, Beat It, Billie Jean, Heal The World and, of course, Thriller.
For the wee ones, there's a dramatisation of the popular bedtime story The Gruffalo at the Pleasance theatre until 9 December.
Finally, the Festival Theatre has a new production of Broadway Musical The Secret Garden based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s heartwarming classic children’s novel of 1911.
When sickly and contrary orphan Mary Lennox is sent to stay with her mysterious and dour uncle on the Yorkshire moors, she discovers the key to a secret garden. As she pursues a secret life tending the wild garden with a local lad, she begins to blossom. The powerful influence of the garden will touch the lives of the various characters who, thus far, have lived under a shadow.
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