My top ten choices for Christmas week (with not a panto in sight)

Mark ShentonFeatures, Include in homepage slide?1 Comment

You’re not going to find any pantos on my top ten list this season — I’ve just not been to any at all this year, thanks to my double round of surgery for a hip replacement, then displacement.

But here are some shows to provide seasonal pleasures in London and beyond that I’m happily see again (and again) — and some of which I *am* already seeing again within the next couple of weeks!

liame-tamne1. The Rocky Horror Show. This year the film version of Richard O’Brien’s cult musical incredibly celebrated its 40th anniversary since it was first released, decease two years after its stage premiere at the Royal Court’s Theatre Upstairs back in 1973. And this week I’m heading to Brighton to see the launch of its latest UK tour, running now at the Theatre Royal to January 2, with tour dates already booked through August. Up to May 28, the cast will be led by West End regular Liam Tamne (above) as Frank ‘N’ Further, with S Club 7 member Paul Catttermole as Eddie/Dr Scott, Emmersdale’s Ben Freeman as Brad, former X Factor finalist Diane Vickers as Janet, and Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff. Website:

2. jason-donovanPriscilla, Queen of the Desert. I’ve been a fan of the stage musical version of the film, featuring a jukebox score of pop favourites, ever since I saw its original production in Sydney a few years ago ahead of its subsequent West End (and then Broadway) transfer. Now it is on the UK touring road, and I’ll be catching up with it in Edinburgh next week at the Playhouse, where the cast includes Jason Donovan (pictured left, reprising his West End performance as Tick; at other tour dates, he alternates in the role with Duncan James and Darren Day), Simon Green and Adam Bailey. Website:

mrfooteslegsq3. Mr Foote’s Other Leg. I’m looking forward to re-visiting the West End transfer of Ian Kelly’s marvellous theatrical play at the Haymarket this coming Thursday afternoon (December 24), which I previously saw and reviewed at its Hampstead Theatre premiere here for London Theatre Guide. It should feel very at home at the Haymarket, where it is running to January 23, as it is partly set there! Simon Russell Beale, Dervla Kirwan and Joseph Millson reprise their performances from Hampstead. Website:

4. The Lorax. Entirely delightful, but also thoughtful, stage version of the Dr Seuss allegorical story of human greed vs the environment is the Old Vic’s first Christmas family show under Matthew Warchus as artistic director. Michael Billington has called it the best family show since Matilda in a five-star review for The Guardian. My review for The Stage is here. Website:

abbie-chambers5. Legally Blonde – the Musical. Upstairs at the Gatehouse offer their latest Christmas show, a revival of the 2007 Broadway musical version of the 2001 film, and it’s the best production I’ve yet seen there — and made me reappraise the show, too! It features newcomer Abbie Chambers (pictured right) in the title role, which made a musical theatre star of Sheridan Smith (currently headlining in another title role in Funny Girl at the Menier). Website:

6. Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Not exactly festive fare, this grimly gripping portrait of human manipulation and sexual game playing casts a dark spell, superbly played by Janet McTeer and Dominic West, at the Donmar Warehouse. My review for London Theatre Guide is here. Webiste: It will also be broadcast live to cinemas in the UK and elsewhere in partnership with NT Live on Jan. 28

Peter-Pan-Goes-Wrong27. Peter Pan Goes Wrong. Never mind the slew of panto versions of JM Barrie’s story usually available at this time of year, including one at Wimbledon starring Marcus Brigstocke; the one to see is Mischief Theatre’s version that defiantly insists it is not a pantomime. But it is a farce — and a riotous one — in which, instead of Peter Pan’s traditional declaration that to die would be an awfully big adventure, it is more of an awfully big misadventure. It’s a cliche to say you were crying with laughter, but I really was. My review for The Stage is here. Website:

8. Bend it Like Beckham. My favourite new musical of the year — Howard Goodall’s glorious music soars in this stage version of the 2002 film, booking at the Phoenix Theatre to March 5.  My review for The Stage is here. Website:

close-to-you9. Close to You. Joyful concert revue of Burt Bacharach classics, mashed up and re-made for now, now extended at the Criterion to Feb. 14. Co-created by and starring Kyle Riabko, pictured in the air, right. My review for The Stage is here. Website:

10. In the Heights. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 Tony winning Broadway musical returns to London in the exhilarating production first seen at Southwark Playhouse last year, and now at the new Olivier-eligible King’s Cross Theatre, where it is currently booking to April 10. See my review for The Stage is here. Website: