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Panto season is nearly upon us, but will you be taking your family to see Cinderella in Bury St Edmunds or Beauty and the Beast in Ipswich?

PUBLISHED: 12:57 22 November 2014 | UPDATED: 14:38 01 December 2014

Ugly sisters Lady G (Jon De Ville) and Katy P (pink hair, James Parkes) are unleashed in Bury St Edmunds prior to their appearence in Cinderella at the Theatre Royal

Ugly sisters Lady G (Jon De Ville) and Katy P (pink hair, James Parkes) are unleashed in Bury St Edmunds prior to their appearence in Cinderella at the Theatre Royal

Tony Kelly

Subtle understatement goes out of the window as the panto season arrives. In his first preview David Henshall takes a look at what’s in store for Suffolk panto-goers.

Joe Leat and Alice Mottram rehearsing the Eastern Angles Christmas Show The Mystery of St Finnigan's ElbowJoe Leat and Alice Mottram rehearsing the Eastern Angles Christmas Show The Mystery of St Finnigan's Elbow

Christmas is coming and the pantomime goose is getting fatter. The delightfully crazy yuletide shows are such popular money-spinners that theatres are opening them earlier and running them longer. And, the choice seems to get broader each year.

Ipswich audiences, in particular, have the pick of several different styles, from rock’n’roll to straight panto, madcap satire or dance. From now till Christmas each Saturday, we will be setting out the offerings at a score or more venues along with the details of how to book your tickets.

Cinderella, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, November 28 to January 11

Written by former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan, this one ticks all the traditional panto boxes with catchy songs, corny jokes, dastardly villains, swirling dresses, a huge dose of slapstick and a sprinkling of magic.

In a nice touch, Karen Simpson, the Royal’s director, has gone back to the original panto style of having a female principal boy. Julia Cave is Prince Charming with Aimee Barret as Cinders. The bane of her life, the cruel Ugly Sisters in the monstrous shapes of Jon De Ville and James Parkes, are loud and possessed of the worst dress sense in the world.

Dandini, naturally, is also played by a girl, Danielle Delys, with Matthew Russell-Jones as Buttons. Sarah-Louise Young’s Fairy Godmother will be producing the special enchantment that sends the glass-slippered Cinders off to dance into love.

Beauty and the Beast, New Wolsey, Ipswich, November 27 to January 31

Peter Rowe’s rock’n’roll pantos go from strength to strength with their unique blend of traditional fairytale and hit songs, played and sung by actor-musicians. They are always great fun, full of surprises and especially fascinating in the way the cast move seamlessly between being the heroes and heroines of the story and members of a cracking rock band.

Several of the cast are familiar faces from previous pantos or shows like A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Threepenny Opera and Our House. Esther Biddle is back as Good Fairy Fortunate with Daniel Carter-Hope playing Peacock Beauregarde and Nicola Bryan as Vanity, one of Beauty’s sisters.

Romantics will be pleased to see again Dan De Cruz (Beast) who last year proposed on stage to Sarah Mahoney. This time she is Luxury, another of Beauty’s sisters. New to the team are Lucy Wells, playing Beauty and Matt Jopling as Desperate Dan.

Eamonn Fleming as Dame Bronwen Bigbreaths is also new. He was in The Full Monty, nominated for Best New Comedy in the Olivier Awards when at the Noel Coward Theatre in London.

Get This Party Started is the ideal number to get things going when Prince Promising is about to be crowned king but when a wicked witch turns him into a hideous Beast he needs to Keep on Running until he Finds Somebody to Love. Meantime, down on Dame Bronwen’s Suffolk farm, Beauty is keen to prove You Can’t Hurry Love but will she ever be Dancing in the Moonlight?

The Mystery of St Finnigan’s Elbow, Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich, December 3 to January 31

It’s 1936 and a crisis is looming at a remote Suffolk convent school - St Finnigan’s famous Funny Bone has mysteriously vanished. Can Alicia and Lulu, the Trumpington twins, solve the riddle before Cardinal Pecorino arrives? Will the Rufty Tufty gang get their comeuppance? And what is Mr Facsimile up to in the bushes?

The old firm is back in business for Eastern Angles with a zany new comedy by Pat Whymark and Julian Harries and the little theatre’s Christmas show favourites, Greg Wagland and Samuel Martin, leading the cast.

The writing team behind the memorable Miss Marple spoof Dial M For Murgatroyd, this time takes Enid Blyton as its inspiration with a Malory Towers-influenced mystery featuring school bullies, bossy nuns, sinister strangers and missing valuables.

Newcomers Francesca Gosling, Alice Mottram and Joe Leat make up the actor-musician cast playing a host of crazy characters in this wacky alternative to traditional panto. It moves to the Woodbridge Seckford in mid-January.

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