The principal boys are back in town at a theatre near you. The choice is yours
Challenge any gambler to name a Christmas certainty and you'll be told that the current odds of a white Christmas are 6-1 against, while The Spice Girls are hotly tipped for the festive number one spot. Yet even more of a festive banker is the fact that Danny La Rue will be plastering on the slap and wielding his wand in panto for the duration of the crimbo period.

This year, the grandfather of all dames is at the Sheffield Lyceum, starring as Widow Twanky alongside Les "Family Fortunes" Dennis's Aladdin. (You said 'Oh no he isn't', our survey said 'Oh yes he is'). And he won't be the only one overegging the pudding across the UK - other prime suspects range from soap stars, former soap stars and wannabe soap stars to Gladiators, and a blooming tasty assortment of TV gardeners and TV chefs.

But spare a thought for those missing from this year's panto roll-call, in particular Ian Botham, who has kicked off his Cinderella thigh-length boots and opted for alternative balls in his role as technical advisor to the England cricket team this winter.

Such is the power of panto that artist Susan Stockwell, at the De La Warr Pavilion Gallery in Bexhill-on-Sea, has been inspired to create an exhibition in honour of the great British tradition. She says: "I intend making characters which contain a narrative element and a magic which I associate with the essence of fairy tales." So, presumably, she'll be making a beeline for Southampton, where the talents of Lionel Blair, Britt Ekland, John Inman and Mr Blobby are crammed together under one roof.

Among the best of the rest: Paul Daniels and his lovely wife Debbie are in Dick Whittington, while Zippy, George and Bungle are reunited up a beanstalk in Yeovil. If you're still undecided, stick a pin in, and, er, head for the hills.


1. Danny La Rue in Aladdin at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

2. Rolf Harris in Cinderella at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

3. Paul Nicholas in Robin Hood at London's Wimbledon Theatre

4. Lesley Joseph in Dick Whittington at Theatre Royal, Plymouth

5. Bonnie Langford in Aladdin at Richmond Theatre, London

6. Gary Wilmot in Cinderella at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

7. Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee, Dick Whittington, Pavilion

Theatre, Bournemouth

8. Su Pollard in Jack and the Beanstalk at New Theatre, Cardiff

9. Christopher Timothy in Dick Whittington at the Harlequin

Theatre, Redhill, Surrey

10. Lionel Blair in Snow White, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton