It’s that time of year - when local theatres get into festive panto mood and this year there are no shortage of productions that will afford much pointing and laughing at the stage, cheesy singing along that will appeal to children only, but hopefully with added humour to keep adults amused (however they may pretend to deny this).
At Belfast’s Lyric Theatre you can catch Cinderella, written by Mike Kenny and directed by Richard Croxford, which runs now until January 5, and sees our beautiful heroine overcome the mean machinations of her ugly stepsisters Thisun and Thatun to meet Prince Charming at the ball (visit www.lyrictheatre.co.uk or call 02890 381081).
Meanwhile the Grand Opera House welcomes the iconic May McFettridge (John Linehan) back for her 24th panto run (surely this beats some kind of Guinness world record?) this year in a joyous production of Sleeping Beauty also starring TV star Lorraine Chase as Carabosse, the Wicked Fairy in outstanding tiara. Sleeping Beauty runs until January 19 with tickets available from www.goh.co.uk or by calling the box office on 02890 241919.
This year the Millennium Forum, Londonderry welcomes back stand-up comedian and broadcaster William Caulfield - no stranger to playing the dame - who will this year moonlight as Captain Hook in a much-vaunted production of Peter Pan (visit www.millenniumforum.co.uk or call 02871 264455).
The Waterfront Hall, Belfast is host to a spirited production of Little Red Riding Hood, directed by Lisa May, which runs from now until January 4 with the added comedy value of seeing playwright Martin Lynch in drag as the dame (visit www.waterfront.co.uk or call 02890 334400), while the MAC lives up to its reputation for eclectic entertainment by offering Hatch! is a children’s musical following the ‘adventures of the ugly duck’ who heads off on a journey to find love and acceptance running at the MAC with music by Katie Richardson of Belfast band Katie and the Carnival (visit themaclive.com or call 02890 235053).
Meanwhile catch Aladdin at the Market Place Theatre, Armagh until December 22 (visit www.marketplacearmagh.com or call 02837 521821) and visitors to Enniskillen’s Ardhowen Theatre can catch Jack and the Beanstalk - the classic tale of Jack, his cow Daisy and those magic beans - which runs at the venue January 9-18 (visit www.ardhowentheatre.com or call 02866 325440).
Theatre at the Mill Newtownabbey eschews panto this year for Hunchback The Musical (December 2-14) - an adpatation of the Gothic novel by Victor Hugo by composer/director Paul Boyd - and miserabilist humour and sarcastic wit abounds with Nuala McKeever in Eternally Scrooged which runs at the venue until January 5 (visit www.theatreatthemill.com/ or call 02890 340202).
Enjoy The Music Box with Peter Corry at the Waterfront, featuring music from school choirs, performances by young ballet dancers and a full adult cast performing traditional and contemporary festive numbers, December 20 and 21, while The Priests perform their annual carol concert on December 22 (www.waterfront.co.uk/ or call 02890 334400).
If you fancy something involving star-gazing instead, head to the Armagh Planetarium for a special show that seeks to unravel the Mystery of the Christmas Star which led the three wise men to the baby Jesus (visit www.armaghplanet.com/ or call 02837 523689).