Always the first panto to open in the region (and often in the country), Oldham Coliseum's Christmas offering this year is Jack and the Beanstalk, which has had a bit of a shake-up of personnel both onstage and off since artistic director Kevin Shaw's departure from the venue a year ago. The production opened on 16 November and will run until 11 January.
At St Helens Theatre Royal, Strictly Come Dancing star Robin Windsor heads a cast including Olivia Sloyan, Philip McGuinness, Si Foster, Scott Gallagher, Timothy Lucas, Jenna-Sian O'Hara and Kai Jolley for Aladdin, running from 7 December to 12 January, whereas Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood tops the bill at the Opera House in Manchester for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, running from 6 to 29 December, which also stars Ben Nickless, Eric Potts and Zoe George.
There's another Snow White at Chester Forum, written and directed by Peter Swingler and running from 29 November to 4 January, whereas at the Grand in Blackpool, you can fly off with Peter Pan from 6 December to 5 January featuring Tom Lister, Steve Royle, Jack Heasman, Christina Meehan, Rachel Grundy, Natalie Hollingsworth and Ruth Betteridge.
This year's rock 'n' roll panto at the Liverpool Everyman is Sleeping Beauty, running from 23 November to 18 January, and Liverpool's Epstein Theatre will present Cinderella from 6 December to 5 January featuring Sammy Winward, Crissy Rock, Sarah White, Warren Donnelly, Andrew Geater, Samantha Palin and Lewis Devine. At Stockport Plaza, Ted Robbins stars with Cheryl Fergison in Jack and the Beanstalk from 29 November to 5 January. At the Liverpool Empire, Tony Maudsley, Asa Elliott, Louis Emerick, John Evans and Niki Evans will star in Peter Pan from 7 to 29 December.
Children's and family shows
There are a great many shows in the region that aren't pantos but are aimed at or suitable for family audiences. Theatre by the Lake has gone with old favourite A Christmas Carol in an adaptation by Patrick Barlow, which runs from 22 November to 11 January. The Dukes in Lancaster has also gone for a traditional tale in Cinderella A Fairytale, running from 22 November to 11 January, but this isn't the panto version. Bolton's Octagon takes audiences on an adventure to Treasure Island, performed at the University of Bolton Stadium from 5 to 28 December, or you can fly down to Storyhouse in Chester for Peter Pan, running from 6 December to 12 January.
Waterside brings Mr Popper's Penguins to Sale from 26 November to 31 December. Goblin Theatre returns to the Studio at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick from 10 to 29 December with The Legend of the Jazz Penguin, suitable for ages 2 years upwards with a running time of 45 minutes. Little Angel Theatre is back at HOME Manchester with The Slightly Annoying Elephant from 5 to 29 December, recommended for ages 3 to 8 years, based on the book by David Walliams and illustrations by Tony Ross. Ducklings is a new show from Herd Theatre based on The Ugly Duckling that will swan into the Royal Exchange Theatre's Studio from 17 December to 5 January.
Tall Stories returns to The Lowry in Salford with its adaptation of the Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler children's book The Gruffalo's Child from 6 December to 12 January. At Z-arts in Hulme, you can see The Scarecrow's Wedding, also based on a Donaldson and Scheffler picture book, from Scamp Theatre from 11 to 14 December and Twinkle Twinkle, for ages 1 to 3, from 20 to 22 December.
At the Royal Exchange Theatre, Jo Davis will direct a revival of the classic musical Gypsy—book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim—starring Ria Jones as Mamma Rose and Melissa James as Louise, running from 30 November to 25 January. The musical featuring the wives of Henry VIII, Six, returns to The Lowry from 3 December with a run that has already been extended by a week to 11 January, with a special singalong performance on Friday 10 January.
Alexandra Burke will return to the role of Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard at the Palace Theatre in Manchester from 10 December to 4 January. Hope Mill Theatre presents a musical follow up to Dickens's A Christmas Carol in The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit, running from 11 November to 29 December. Liverpool Playhouse will present Meredith Willson's musical adaptation of Miracle on 34th Street from 7 December to 4 January.
Griff Rhys Jones will star as Old Max in Dr Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical at The Lowry from 10 December to 5 January. At Oldham Library from 10 to 28 December, Oldham Theatre Workshop will let you into The Secret of Christmas Eve.
Monkeywood Theatre follows up it's The Manchester Project almost two years ago with another twelve plays set in the region from different writers but this time around Christmas and New Year; it's at HOME from 5 to 21 December. At The Lowry, Mischief Theatre brings slapstick with a festive twist in Peter Pan Goes Wrong, running from 3 to 7 December.
Also at HOME, theatre company 1927 returns with a series of rarely told folk talks in the world première of Roots, described as "their most family friendly show to date", running from 11 to 30 December.
Finally, if, for your Christmas entertainment, you wish to be shut inside a shipping container and "experience extreme scares in total darkness, following the sinister journey of a young couple moving into a dilapidated old Victorian house", Survive the Nightmare, described as "an immersive horror experience", may be for you; it is at a secret central Manchester location from 29 November to 12 January.