The Ten Best: Christmas shows

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The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker

£29 to £45

With set and costumes designed by the satirical caricaturist Gerald Scarfe and choreography by Christopher Hampson, Tchaikovsky's familiar score is given a colourful interpretation by the English National Ballet. The tale is about Clara, her nutcracker doll, the magician Drosselmeyer and their adventures in the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of the Sweets. Clara battles a mouse king, flies an origami bird, dances with snowflakes and falls in love with a handsome prince.

London Coliseum, London WC2 (020-7632 8300), 21 December to 8 January

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake

£10 to £45

The all-male production is still in great demand 10 years after its successful premiere. Bourne transforms this best-loved of ballets into a stylish and witty contemporary tale, complete with extravagant designs by Lez Brotherston. Controversially, it replaces the traditional female corps de ballet with a menacing male ensemble. The show won more than 30 international awards, including three Tonys.

Sadler's Wells, London EC1 (0870 145 1163), to 16 January

Cinderella

£13.50; children £9.50

Billed as the old favourite with a "modern urban twist", this tells how Cinders' father returns home with a new wife and her "lovely" daughters Mini and Maxi. Cinderella is reduced to rags and forced to wait on her new sisters - but can she make it to the ball where, the prince has announced, he will pick the girl with the sassiest voice? I think we know the answer - oh yes we do. With an all-local cast.

Waterfront Studio, Lanyon Place, Belfast (028-9033 4455), to 15 January

Scrooge: the musical

£8.50 to £24.50

Based on the Albert Finney film, this show brings A Christmas Carol to life on stage. It stars the Sixties crooner Tommy Steele as Scrooge, and has all Dickens's colourful characters - the Christmas ghosts, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim.

Palace Theatre, Manchester (0870 401 3000), to 15 January

Whoosh!

£6; children £4

This spectacular ice show has been created by the Olympic skating medallist Robin Cousins. It stars the British ice-dance champions John and Sinead Kerr, with a cast of giant bugs and disco divas in fantastic illuminated costumes. Stadium-style seating guarantees great views of the performance, for which George Square is transformed into a Moscow-style winter wonderland.

George Square, Glasgow (0870 013 2652), 19-21 December

Dick Whittington

£8.50 to £19

The Theatre Royal panto is always spectacular family entertainment. Unusually, the principal "boy" really is one - H from Steps plays Dick, joined by one of panto's most experienced "baddies", David Griffin (Hyacinth Bucket's neighbour in Keeping Up Appearances), as King Rat.

Theatre Royal, New Road, Brighton (0870 060 6650), tomorrow to 16 January

The Snowman

£12.50 to £30

A boy's snowman comes to life on Christmas Eve, and the two friends set off on an adventure. Raymond Briggs's popular children's story returns complete with dancing penguins and reindeer, as the Snowman soars through the night air to escape Jack Frost and arrive home by Christmas morning. It features a score and lyrics by Howard Blake, including the perennially popular "Walking in the Air".

Peacock Theatre, London WC2 (0870 737 7737), to 9 January

The Secret Garden

£12; children £8

Orphaned Mary Lennox arrives at her estranged uncle's manor house on the Yorkshire moors, and finds the key to a wonderful and forgotten garden. As she tends the overgrown paradise, she experiences the exhilaration of true friendship, learns to love and be loved, and unearths the darkest of secrets...

Tobacco Factory, Raleigh Road, Bristol (0117-902 0344), Friday to 15 January

Chinese State Circus

£7 to £25

This tour brings a new troupe of 30 of China's finest performers to Folkestone. Seven performers balance on a tower of chairs, contortionists get knotted and gymnasts catapult from springboards. There's a breathtaking aerial straps routine, head-to-head juggling with giant urns and 14 girls on one bicycle (a world record), plus an extravagant performance of the traditional lion dance.

Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone, Kent (01303 228600), 21 December to 3 January

Beauty & the Beast

£5 to £40

If traditional panto isn't your thing, this production by the RSC will delight all the family. Originally staged last year, the delightful adaptation of the fairy story is now even more stunning, with the Beast climbing walls on jumping stilts. Laurence Boswell directs Gary Sefton as the Beast and Karen Paullada as Beauty.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon (0870 609 1110), to 16 January

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