Panto Season 2016

But what of 2016? A new year means a new season and already there has been a flurry of casting news as theatres are keen to get patrons booked up in advance of the festive period.

Panto Season 2016 sees a few changes in venues' producers. Shone Productions takes over the producing mantel from Paul Holman Associates in Telford, whilst Qdos take over the Churchill Theatre, Bromley from UK Productions. The Lichfield, Garrick will also see a big change in its pantomime provision as Evolution Productions come onboard to present their first pantomime at the venue.

Not only have theatres been announcing their titles, but many production companies have also been revealing their casts. Those Magic Beans have announced that Jaz Ellington, Leanne Jones, Payne and Pearce and Antony Costa will appear in Jack and the Beanstalk, Gravesend, with Jasette Amos, Peter Brad-Leigh, Richard Tate and Joe Tracini starring in their new production of Sleeping Beauty at the Stag Theatre, Sevenoaks.

In Norwich, Richard Gauntlett and Ben Langley return for another season at the Theatre Royal as mother and son in Jack and the Beanstalk, whilst Simon Fielding and Sophie Ladds celebrate their tenth season together at the Towngate Theatre, Basildon.

The country's biggest pantomime producer Qdos Entertainment has revealed that many familiar faces will return for the season ahead including John Evans in Llandudno, Andy Gray, Grant Stott and Allan Stewart in Edinburgh, Billy Pearce in Bradford, Matt Slack in Birmingham and Clive Webb, Danny Adams and Chris Hayward in Newcastle. Webb, Adams and Hayward will perform in their third Cinderella at the venue with Hayward playing the Fairy Godmother for the first time.

Qdos is also bringing some retired titles back for 2016, including Robinson Crusoe and the Caribbean Pirates starring Brian Conley in Southend and Robin Hood with Jessie Wallace and Shane Richie in Southampton. Also announced is the cast of Wolverhampton's Aladdin which will star Joe McElderry, Lisa Riley, regional star Doreen and Ian Adams, previously resident Dame in Lichfield.

Paul Morse returns to Reading for Imagine Theatre, with JP McCue and Sean Dodds scheduled for another season in Leamington Spa. Joining the company for the first time is Sam Bailey, having preciously appeared with First Family Entertainment. Bailey joins Jon Clegg in Jack and the Beanstalk at the De Montfort Hall, Leicester.

Noel Brodie returns to Bournemouth this year, advertised tongue-in-cheek on posters as "back despite popular demand" and will be joined by Dani Harmer in Cinderella produced by UK Productions.

Whilst Cinderella may be one of the perennial favourites, a title not seen for half a decade since the Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond's 2011 production, Sinbad makes a welcome return to Pantoland in a production at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, with Andrew Pollard set to create a brand new version of Peter Pan for Greenwich Theatre.

York Theatre Royal will present Cinderella, with the jury out as to what Berwick Kaler will play this time round, whilst in Dublin, the tale gets a makeover as Ugly Sisters and Yer Wan! at the Olympia Theatre.

Sadly, there's be no professional pantomime in Fleet this year after the council decided to scrap it in favour of a community production and 2016 will see Christopher Biggins take a year out before returning for his final season in 2017.

But, before then, there is the Easter season to look forward to. Although Easter staple Those Magic Beans won't be contributing this year after successful seasons of Alice in Wonderland and The Pirates of Treasure Island, the diversity of titles has increased with more areas of the United Kingdom privy to an Easter pantomime than ever before.

Touring productions of The Wizard of Oz will be presented by Shone Productions featuring Sooty, Sweep and Soo and Enchanted Entertainment starring Dani Harmer and Bobbi Davro, whilst KD Theatre launch their first Easter panto at the Maltings, Ely after successful Christmas seasons at the venue.

Anton Benson Productions are set to enchant audiences with their touring production of Beauty and the Beast starring Keith Chegwin, Anne Hegerty and Basil Brush with Wicked Productions touring Rapunzel Rocks! to Tunbridge Wells, Harlow, Margate and Eastbourne.

In Redcar, Tom Rolfe brings Jack and the Beanstalk to Tuned In! with the Dugdale Centre, Enfield continuing their Easter tradition with Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs starring Ricky Tomlinson as the Magic Mirror comes to the Epstein Theatre, Liverpool whilst Ray Quinn heads the cast of St Helen's Theatre Royal's Peter Pan.

But if you really can't wait for your fix of panto until Easter, don't panic! Why not listen to our podcast interview with Qdos Managing Director Michael Harrison or check out the Dame videos and docu-feature from Panto Day's 2015 Year of the Dame celebrations.

We'll soon be launching our Panto Season 2016 audition and casting pages, but for those in the industry, don't forget to fill in Equity's panto survey if you starred in a professional production no matter how big or small, during Panto Season 2015.