Panto Season 2015
At the final performance of this year's Old Mother Goose, Berwick Kaler announced 2015's York Theatre Royal pantomime would be Dick Whittington and his Meerkat—the first time a meerkat has replaced Tommy the Cat in pantomime's century old tale.
Berwick Kaler will return to York to write, co-direct and star in 2015's production and marks a long line of resident regulars who have already been announced for next season.
In Edinburgh, Andy Gray, Allan Stewart and Grant Stott return to the Kings in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with Stott cross-dressing as the Wicked Queen after his successful run as Ugly Sister in 2011.
Qdos has also announced that Billy Pearce will return to Bradford in Jack and the Beanstalk, John Evans will return to Llandudno in Snow White, Danny Adams, Clive Webb and Chris Hayward return to Newcastle in Dick Whittington and the Krankies return to the SECC Glasgow Peter Pan, this time without John Barrowman, but with David Hasselhoff in the role of Captain Hook.
Whilst Qdos keeps its comics in certain venues, Evolution tends to have resident Dames with Damian Williams, Ben Roddy and Brad Fitt all announced as returning to Sheffield (Aladdin), Canterbury (Snow White) and Shrewsbury (Dick Whittington). With Croydon having announced Cinderella as this year's title, we shall have to wait and see whether resident Dame Quinn Patrick returns as an Ugly Sister, or perhaps even Buttons in the vein of Williams when Sheffield did Cinderella in 2012.
Completing our round up of returners is Steve Walls in Snow White at Whitley Bay and Andrew Pollard who celebrates a decade of pantomimes at the Greenwich Theatre with rarely seen title Little Red Riding Hood.
Two other pantomime producing houses have also announced alternative titles. The Customs House, South Shield will be producing Alice in Wonderland, a title more frequently seen as an Easter pantomime, whilst the Glasgow Pavilion present new title Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
There's been a slight shake-up in companies producing at regional theatres already this year with Imagine Theatre taking on the Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple where they will produce Cinderella and in Redditch Paul Holman Associates returns to present pantomime at the Palace Theatre. Imagine Theatre also has another two productions with venues to be confirmed, as well as a brand new title for 2015, when Peter Pan will première at Eden Court, Inverness.
It is always interesting to have a look at the season's titles and, although it's too early to draw up a league table, it does look as though Sleeping Beauty may drop in popularity this year. Neither Imagine Theatre nor Qdos Entertainment will be presenting the title.
As well as their resident performers, Qdos has also announced where some of its biggest stars will perform. Craig Revel-Horwood continues his seasonal seafaring as Captain Hook, this year in High Wycombe, a role John Altman will play in Wolverhampton alongside the Chuckle Brothers, with Joe McElderry reprising his role as the Man in the Mirror in Hull.
In Nottingham, Britain's best-loved Dame Biggins will give his Twankey at the Theatre Royal, whilst productions of Aladdin are also earmarked for Qdos's two biggest venues, the Birmingham Hippodrome and The Mayflower, Southampton. It will be interesting to see whether these productions are almost identical, with the Mayflower receiving Birmingham's production in the past.
Justin Fletcher returns to Reading after spending two seasons in Woking and Ant Payne and Robert Pearce return to Gravesend in Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood, where they will be joined by fellow Magic Beans regular Lucy Reed.
In Scarborough, Damian Patton and Tom Rolfe star in the Spa's Dick Whittington whilst Stockport will see Ted Robbins and Kim Hartman in Snow White.
2015 will also see two new pantomime companies join Pantoland with Strictly Pantomimes producing Jack and the Beanstalk in Barrow-in-Furness, the title of choice for Spark Live who will present its debut pantomime at Beccles Public Hall and Theatre.
New companies, new productions and new venues all need a new set of performers, creatives and technicians. Don't forget to check out the British Theatre Guide's Panto Auditions and Technical / Creative positions page for all of the industry's latest opportunities.
But of course, before we reach Christmas, there is another Panto Season: Easter. This year, the number of productions has increased dramatically with approximately one in three Christmas pantomime venues receiving an Easter production between 25 March and 30 May. Titles for 2015 include Peter Pan, Robin Hood and his Merry Men, The Pirates of Treasure Island, Beauty and the Beast, The Wizard (and Chuckles) of Oz, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty and Pinocchio. To see if an Easter pantomime will be visiting your local theatre, check out the National Database of Pantomime Performance.
For those in need of a panto fix before then, you can still check out Brick Lane Music Hall's Babes in the Wood until 7 March, featuring a whole host of panto names including Nigel Ellacott, Rusty Goffe, Vincent Hayes and if you want to take a piece of Hackney Empire panto history home, get on down to the Empire between 29 March and 1 February when they'll be selling off some of their old costumes.