London Palladium pantomime will go ahead, as culture secretary launches Operation Sleeping Beauty

Paul Coltas
Paul Coltas

It's a Christmas miracle! London’s biggest panto is set to take place this festive season with an all-star cast.

While most of the city’s pantomimes were forced to postpone their productions until next year, the London Palladium is steaming ahead with Pantoland at the Palladium.

Regular star Julian Clary will return, with Beverley Knight making her Palladium panto debut alongside Britain’s Got Talent winners Diversity, Mary Poppins star Charlie Stemp and Jac Yarrow, who played the lead role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on the same stage. Season regulars Paul Zerdin, Nigel Havers and Gary Wilmot will also return to the panto.

The show is happening due to an initiative launched today by the National Lottery, which hopes to enable hundreds of thousands of theatregoers across the country to attend socially distanced pantos.

The National Lottery will subsidise performances by buying the empty seats, to make it viable for theatres to open at reduced capacity. More than 20,000 tickets will be available for free, with details announced in November.

Michael Harrison, director and producer, said that pantomime is “critical” for many theatres, adding: “This initiative will be a lifeline for those venues, whilst enabling us to provide much needed uplifting entertainment at such a challenging time.”

Andrew Lloyd Webber, owner of the Palladium, added that opening Pantoland will provide "crucial support to struggling restaurants, hotels and other hospitality businesses across the West End, leading to thousands of vital jobs on stage, off stage and backstage".

He said LW Theatres has been working to make the Palladium Covid-secure since March. Knight sang on stage as part of a pilot to show that indoor performances could return safely with new measures in place.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Today, we launch Operation Sleeping Beauty. We must hope for the best and plan for the worst. Our hope is to get some panto back on this Christmas, and despite the very challenging backdrop we are going to give it our best shot."

Many theatres were already forced to cancel their pantomimes in August, including four of London’s best-loved regular productions at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, Hackney Empire, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and Theatre Royal Stratford East. More than 145,000 people attended the four pantos last year.

Pantoland at the Palladium will run from December 12 to January 3. Tickets are on sale from 10am today.