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Our guide to pantomime and Christmas shows in Cambridge, Ely and beyond

Grab your sparkliest outfit - it’s panto time!

This year there are loads of seasonal shows for all ages to get you in the holiday spirit. Whether you’re looking for a glitzy traditional pantomime with bosom-hefting dame and a dastardly villain to boo, or prefer the dazzling divas of Ru Paul’s Drag Race to cheer in your Christmas season, it’s all going on around Cambridge and nearby towns.

Plus there are two magical ballets to choose from and a chance to track down Santa, who has gone missing, and avert a North Pole nightmare.

Dick Whittington

Cambridge Arts Theatre Christmas Panto Dick Whittington: Luke Baker (60903800)
Cambridge Arts Theatre Christmas Panto Dick Whittington: Luke Baker (60903800)

A dazzling cast has been unveiled for this year’s spectacular pantomime at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Taking on the role of the evil King Rat in Dick Whittington and his Cat is award-winning TV and West End star Rolan Bell, top right, who scooped the Best Villain Award at The Pantomime Awards 2022. And back as the lusty, busty dame – Sarah the Cook – is the hilarious Matt Crosby, bottom right, returning for his 17th Arts Theatre pantomime. Joining the devilishly talented duo in principal roles are Luke Baker, as our plucky hero, Dick; Charlie Cameron as trusty sidekick Tommy the Cat; Ruby Ablett as Alice Fitzwarren; and Nichole Bird as the lovable Silly Billie. With an incredible ensemble of dancers, a toe-tapping soundtrack and a witty script penned by resident panto writer Al Lockhart-Morley, it’s set to be a feel-good extravaganza.

Alice Through the looking Glass

Alice in Wonderland. ADC Theatre. (60904246)
Alice in Wonderland. ADC Theatre. (60904246)

Bawds presents a fresh, new treatment of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” books, featuring all their best-loved characters, including the Mad Hatter, March Hare, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Red and White Queens, the White Knight and Humpty Dumpty.

Alice disrupts Lewis Carroll’s earnest Christmas Lecture to explore the far more entertaining world of his surreal imagination in a fast-moving celebration of a classic that has influenced comedy from the Goon Show and Monty Python to Reeves and Mortimer, the League of Gentlemen and beyond. Truly a Frabjous Christmas Carroll for young and old.

Pictures by Paul Ashley

Treasure Island

Treasure Island at ADC Theatre (60904258)
Treasure Island at ADC Theatre (60904258)

Geography trips have never been more thrilling than in The Cambridge Footlights version of Treasure Island. A story of swashbuckling, sea-shanty singing and self-discovery is revealed in the student show.

In the midst of woeful underfunding and ridicule from local private school St Perfectton’s Prep, join the students and teachers of Grove Park Secondary as a mysterious pirate offers them the geography field trip of a lifetime. Will they find Billy Bones’ lost treasure? Will Jemima Hawkins fulfil her dreams of adventure and find the love of her classmate Lily? And will by-the-books teacher Mr Livesey learn that there is more to life than longshore drift and oxbow lakes?

The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker at Cambridge Junction (60519397)
The Nutcracker at Cambridge Junction (60519397)

The Christmas show at the Cambridge Junction is described as “an alternative, punk retelling” of The Nutcracker. The production from Moxie Brawl promises to discuss “key ideas about identity” and publicity material says it “transcends the idea of what a show for children is”.

Moxie Brawl artistic director Sarah Blanc explains they have taken inspiration from the original 1816 story of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King which will be brought to life by disabled and nondisabled performers, featuring dancing nutcrackers, giant sweets, singing mice and a Santa’s sleigh full of holiday cheer. Supported by Cambridge-based company Stobbs IP, the show is fully accessible, and British Sign Language interpreted, delivering Christmas joy to all!


British folk voted the fairytale Cinderella their all-time favourite panto in a national poll last year. At The Maltings in Ely, Cinderella gets the KD Theatre Productions treatment, with panto favourites Terry Gauci and Terry Burns returning as ugly sisters Sharon and Tracey, and Hope Thompson slipping on the glass slippers for the title role. Expect joyous live music, passionate performers, stunning sets, lavish costumes and bags of comedy in this 10th anniversary show.

The Legend of Robin Hood

The Legend of Robin Hood at Theatre Royal Bury, Picture Tom Soper (60656688)
The Legend of Robin Hood at Theatre Royal Bury, Picture Tom Soper (60656688)

Tax rises are the worst – especially when they’re being imposed by a scheming sheriff. But the impoverished people of Nottingham need no longer fear the greedy tyrant as a caped crusader is poised to ride into town to steal from the rich and give to the poor... See the Theatre Royal Bury stage transformed into leafy Sherwood Forest for this year’s panto, The Legend of Robin Hood. Joining arrow-shooting outlaw Robin Loxley, played by Samuel Knight, pictured, will be his Merry Men including Little Joan (panto dame Chris Clarkson), proprietor of Little Joan’s Big Baps, and no-nonsense noblewoman Maid Marion, played by Jessica Dennis. With a professional cast, under the direction of the theatre’s artistic director, Owen Calvert-Lyons, it’s on target to be a rip-roaring, all-singing, all-dancing panto extravaganza.

Kate Rusby

Kate Rusby Christmas show at Cambridge Corn Exchange (60519389)
Kate Rusby Christmas show at Cambridge Corn Exchange (60519389)

Ring in Christmas with ‘warmth, music and sparkles’ courtesy of the first lady of folk Kate Rusby. Rounding off the year which saw Kate release new album 30 : Happy Returns – celebrating three decades in the business and featuring KT Tunstall and Ladysmith Black Mambazo – the much-loved singer promises an evening of Christmas cheer, featuring the uplifting Yorkshire carols of her youth. Expect happiness, humour and spell-binding storytelling as Kate performs alongside an intuitive band of musicians including husband Damien O’Kane and renowned brass quintet, The Brass Boys.

Kitty and Ella’s Christmas Cracker

Hold on to your wigs (and lashes!) – as RuPaul’s Drag Race UK superstars Kitty Scott-Claus and Ella Vaday are bringing ‘eleganza extravaganza’ to Cambridge! Inviting you to jingle their bells, the dazzling divas have announced their first joint tour ‘Kitty & Ella’s Christmas Cracker’ and will be putting on the glitz at Cambridge Junction. Join the iconic duo as they set off on an unforgettable, magical sleigh ride to discover who’s been naughty or nice. There’ll be a mountain of sparkle, outrageous behaviour and wall-to-wall festive cheer. “Dingalingdong come jingle our bells! Santa’s favourite huns are about to cause festive havoc across the UK this Christmas!” says Ella, whose impression of Nigella Lawson in Drag Race’s iconic Snatch Game goes down in ‘herstory’. “Move over Santa hun, Ella and I are hitting the road and here to make all your Chrissy wishes come true,” adds Kitty.

Christmas Cabin in Charter Square

Santa is missing! Can your little one turn super sleuth to avert a North Pole nightmare by tracking down the big man in the red suit? Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds has partnered with arc Shopping Centre to create a magical Christmas Cabin in Charter Square. You’re invited to join Chief Elf Älva in Santa’s living room, to help search for clues, and rescue Christmas! Where’s Santa is a 20-minute captivating show starring The Archers’ favourite Terry Molloy as Santa and local actor Hatty Ashton as Älva, and is perfect for children aged 2 to 7. Admission by pre-booked tickets only.

Ballet: The Nutcracker and Swan Lake

  • Cambridge Corn Exchange, The Nutcracker - December 28 to 30; Swan Lake - December 31 to January 1

This festive season, Cambridge Corn Exchange will once again play host to spectacular presentations of two of the world’s most popular classical ballets, accompanied by a live orchestra to complete the experience.

The Nutcracker is a feast for the senses; the enchanting tale of Clara’s adventures with her Nutcracker Prince, full of magic and wonder for audiences of all ages. There is also a chance to see Swan Lake. This is the tragic tale of love that triumphs over evil, as Prince Siegfried falls in love with Odette, Queen of the Swans, only to be tricked into betraying her with devastating consequences.

This season the ballets will be presented by The International Classic Ballet Theatre. This company of international dancers comes to the UK direct from the United States, where they have toured extensively in 2022 to great acclaim. The dancers are carefully selected by Georgia-born Artistic Director, Marina Medvetskaya, a former prima ballerina of Tbilisi State Academic Opera and Ballet. Each dancer is chosen for their grace, skill and athleticism, essential for the classical style of ballet presented.

The Three Musketeers

The Comberton Players are returning to the stage with a brand new pantomime, written and directed by Rachel Nielsen. All is not well in Paris - taxes are high, the people are miserable, the Three Musketeers are out of work, and the evil Cardinal is hatching a dastardly plan. Will he succeed in his plot to oust the King? Who is the bewitching beauty working as his secret agent? Will the Musketeers accept the earnest and persistent D'Argtagnan into their gang, and will they ever leave the grotty Bistro and save Paris from its impending doom? Join them for drama, humour and the hair-raising action of France's most dashing heroes.

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