Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a good old-fashioned boo at a panto baddy.
Families across the area are looking forward to seeing a festive show and theatres are ready to entertain with a line-up of celebrities and traditional tales.
So the only dilemma is which production to plump for.
For many, the distance from their home will be the deciding factor. Others may go for their favourite story, or be swayed by who’s starring in what production.
But to help we’ve put together a full rundown of who’s doing what, where and when.
Missing from the list this year is the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth.
With a closure planned for its multi-million pound redevelopment, the theatre will not be putting on a Christmas show.
But providing a new entertainment venue this Christmas is the Berry Theatre in Southampton. The baby of the bunch only opened in May and is planning a two-week run of Hansel and Gretel.
Cinderella, the down-on-her-luck girl with the glass slipper, was not seen in this area last year. But, just like buses, you wait for ages and then two come along at once.
The Kings Theatre in Southsea and the Theatre Royal in Winchester are both putting on versions of the classic fairytale.
Meanwhile both the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton and the Groundlings Theatre in Portsea are putting their own twist on the boy who never grew up, Peter Pan.
The former is performing a pantomime version and the latter a play.
With the recent reunion of pop group Steps, there’s been a lot of excitement over Ian ‘H’ Watkins’ role as Potty Pierre in Beauty and The Beast at Ferneham Hall in Fareham.
But whatever takes your fancy, there’s plenty to choose from.
Kings Theatre, Southsea
Today - January 1
Starring Gosport-born Hollyoaks star Marcus Patrick in his first pantomime, plus Coronation Street actress Tracy Shaw, this panto classic has other well-known faces included in the cast. They include Tom Owen from Last of the Summer Wine and Leah Bracknell (Zoe) and Stuart Wade (Biff) from Emmerdale. It’s sure to be a traditional family show.
· Tickets cost £12.50 to £22.50 (£36 to £68 for families) on (023) 9282 8282 or go to kings-southsea.com.
Ferneham Hall, Fareham
Beauty and the Beast
December 9-January 1
Nineties pop group Steps have been appearing everywhere lately, with news of their reunion causing a lot of interest, especially with a national tour lined up next year. Ferneham Hall has got Ian ‘H’ Watkins from the group playing Potty Pierre in its production of Beauty and the Beast. Other stars on stage include Steven Pinder from Brookside.
· Tickets cost £7 to £15.75 on (01320) 231942 or go to fernehamhall.co.uk.
Mayflower Theatre, Southampton
Peter Pan the Pantomime
December 9-January 14
Flying the flag for pantomimes this Christmas, the Mayflower’s show features Les Dennis as Smee, Ben Richards (The Bill) as Hook, Lucy Benjamin (EastEnders) as Mrs Darling, and Daniel Boys (Any Dream Will Do) as Peter Pan. From the producers of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Irving Berlin’s White Christmas The Musical, this brand new version is having its world premiere.
· Tickets cost £14 to £29.50 on (023) 8071 1811 or go to mayflower.org.uk.
Theatre Royal, Winchester
The classic rags-to-riches story is always popular among panto-goers, with writer and director James Barry returning after last year’s Peter Pan, along with composer Simon Slater. Starring in the show will be Serena Giacomini, Bryn Lucus, Jack Cassidy, Julian Eardley, and Clive Flint, who have all appeared in previous pantomimes at the theatre.
· Tickets cost £8 to £21 on (01962) 840440 or go to theatre-royal-winchester.co.uk.
Nuffield Theatre, Southampton
Until January 8
This version of the tiny people tale comes from the team behind The Nuffield’s A Christmas Carol last year and 2009’s The Wind in the Willows, which was chosen as one of The Independent’s Top 5 Christmas shows. It stars Nicola Blackman as Mrs Driver, Julia Hills as Homily, Eleanor Yates as Arrietty and David Alcock as Pod.
· Tickets cost £8.50 to £16.50 on (023) 8031 5500 or go to nuffieldtheatre.co.uk.
The Berry Theatre, Southampton
Hansel and Gretel
Follow a trail of bread crumbs as the Berry Theatre puts on its first-ever Christmas show, full of gingerbread men and chocolate glazing. Professional actor Ed Wren will play Hansel and Deborah Pugh will play Gretel. Directed by the theatre’s artistic director, Sarah Brigham, there are plans to have a life-size wooden puppet for the evil witch.
· Tickets cost £8 to £10 on (01489) 799499 or go to theberrytheatre.co.uk.
The Spring, Havant
The Adventures Of A Bear Called Paddington
Adapted by playwright Alfred Bradley from Michael Bond’s stories, and with songs written especially for the show, this production brings to life the accident-prone bear. Amateur dramatics group HumDrum is putting on the show, with a full list of dates available online. It tells the story of the lovable bear, Paddington, who was found on Paddington Station by the Browns and adopted by them, and has been a favourite with children for many years.
n Tickets cost £7 to £8.50 on (023) 9247 2700 or go to thespring.co.uk.
Groundlings Theatre, Portsea
December 10-January 1
Offering something different to the traditional pantomime production, the play stars adults and youths from the theatre. A two-course meal is available while watching the show. Lewis Robinson is playing Captain Hook, Declan Murphy is Peter Pan, Emily Day is Wendy and Brian Davey is Smee in the fight between the evil pirates and the lost boys.
· Tickets cost £9.50 to £17 on (023) 9273 7370 or go to groundlings.co.uk.
Chichester Festival Theatre
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
Directed by Dale Rooks, the Chichester Festival Youth Theatre brings its annual Christmas production back again, this time with the iconic C S Lewis story of Peter, Susanne, Edmund, and Lucy. As they enter the magical world of Narnia, things take a turn for the worst. The production features original music by Shaun Davey, puppetry by Toby Olie and costumes by Amy Jackson.
· Tickets cost £11 to £23.50 on (01243) 781312 or go to cft.org.uk.