The Best Christmas Shows

WIZARDS OF OZ

Somewhere over the rainbow... there's Dundee Repertory Theatre. So click your heels together three times and follow the yellow brick road there this Christmas, to watch Dorothy and Toto's adventures in the land of Oz (below). Theproduction is the first musical show staged at the theatre for many years, and has a large cast belting out favourites such as "We're Off to See the Wizard" and the scarecrow's lament "If I Only had a Brain". L Frank Baum's original Kansas Twister will also be visiting its whirlwind on the children's Polka Theatre in London this year, for a production directed by Polka Associate Director Roman Stefanski. Both are fantastic shows to take the Munchkins to this Christmas. Book early to guarantee your boxing-day box.

Dundee Rep (01382 223530) to 11 Jan, Polka Theatre (0181-543 4888) to 8 Feb

WITCHES

There's lashings of Roald Dahl to be found on the Christmas circuit this year, but this is certainly one of the biggest and best of the shows. Adapted by top children's dramatist David Ward it features spine-tingling events ad magical illusions as well as hoards of "the most dangerous creatures on earth", hell-bent on turning all the children of England into mice.

Vaudeville Theatre, London (0171-836 9987), to 18 Jan

BALLET

The divine Darcey Bussell is Cinderella in the Royal Ballet's Christmas show. (0171-304 4000) to 4 Jan And if that doesn't tickle your fancy, you can always catch the Kirov performing one of a plethora of Nutcrackers at The London Coliseum (0171-632 8300) to 4 Jan. The company has the distinction of having originally premiered Tchaikovsky's work when it first opened in 1892.

THE BFG

Brain boggling sights at Cardiff's Sherman Theatre this Christmas, where guest director Michael Bogdanov is directing Roald Dahl's BFG, the story of Sophie and a load of giants with a taste for human beans (01222 230451)

to 11 Jan

CONCERTS

Book now to listen to some ravishing Christmas music around the country next weekend. The Scottish Early Music Consort presents The Christmas Story, which dates from 1664 at Glasgow's City Hall on 14 December (0141-552 1816) while Christopher Robinson conducts The City of Birmingham Orchestra and the City Choir in Carols For All at Birmingham Symphony Hall on 15 December (0121-212 3333)

ALTERNATIVE

CHRISTMAS

Edinburgh's Theatre Workshop has purloined stars from Scottish soap Take the High Road for Of Nettles and Roses, an adaptation of an ancient Yiddish folk tale (0131-226 5425) to 24 Dec. If that sounds too worthy, why not book up early for the Albany Theatre's New Year's Special (0181-692 4446) which promises Deviant Dancing Angels and glittering suprises.

HANSEL AND GRETEL

The fact that Englebert Humperdinck has penned a family opera is rather a well-kept secret, but now the cat's out of the bag, you'd better book up for The Garden Opera Company's Christmas performance. Hump's Hansel and Gretel (above) is designed for children aged six and over, exploring the rich symbolism of witch-fattened orphans and gingerbread houses. Barbican, London (0171-638 8891) 27, 28, 29 Dec

BEANSTALK

Joanna Lumley and Danny DeVito are guest narrators for a special musical performance of Jack and the Beanstalk at the Royal Albert Hall. The Philharmonic will be playing a witty and imaginative score that includes some satisfyingly noisy percussion.

(0171-589 8212) 13 Dec

PINOCCHIO

Adapted and directed by Tony Clark, this musical production of Carl Collodi's classic fairytale promises to be seriously wonderful. The show is being put together by the same team that got Raymond Briggs Snowman to tread the boards and staged this year's wonderful The Red Balloon at the National Theatre. Mark Vibrans has written an original score and the magical environs of the long-nosed one have been beautifully designed by Ruari Murchison. Birmingham Repertory Theatre (0121-236 4455) to 25 Jan

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Stratford East's non-starry panto has no members of Gladiators or EastEnders, but does boast an Afro-Asian cast - something shamefully unusual in the world of panto. With black heroes and heroines, the production offers an alternative to the usual white Christmas. In the past, the theatre has discovered stars such as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer and Kate Hardie. Who knows, perhaps this year you'll witness fresh talent rather than a load of old soapy whitewash. Theatre Royal, Stratford East, London (0181-534 0310) to 25 Jan

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