Crikey - where did the past twelve months go?! Somehow, we’ve reached the end of a truly remarkable 2016, with more hit shows than you can shake a chocolate log at. But there's no time to reminisce, London theatregoers, because the December calendar is chock-full of brilliant shows on the horizon, with a suitably eclectic and exciting line-up for all ages which should round off the year in spectacular style.
So dig out your snow boots, call our good friend Rudolph the Reindeer, and get your sleigh on the way to London's Theatreland - you've got some theatre to catch. Here are our picks...
Captain Hook (Anna Francolini) and pirates in Peter Pan (Photo: Steve Tanner)
Now previewing, press night 2 December; National Theatre Olivier
Dan: Peter Pan opens at National Theatre this month, the perfect festive show for those of us with no desire to ever grow up. Originally performed at Bristol's Old Vic, you can expect to see plenty of aerial magic and the always-brilliant Anna Francolini as Captain Hook. Grab some fairy dust and fly down to the National Theatre.
Sarah Hamilton, Andrew Cullimore, Adam Ryan and Katie Haygarth in The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show (Photo: Pamela Raith Photography)
From 2 December; Ambassadors Theatre
Sinead: What better way to spend quality time with the little ones over Christmas than watching as they marvel at their favourite bedtime story coming to life before their very eyes? The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show wiggles its way to the West End in full technicolour, boasting 75 awe-inspiring puppets that will charm and delight audience members young and old alike!
LOVE at the National Theatre (Photo: David Stewart/NT Graphic Design Studio)
Previews from 6 December, opening night 13 December; National Theatre Dorfman
Jim: At the National Theatre, you can always be sure of a great production. I’m looking forward to LOVE, which has got such an interesting premise – three families thrown in and cramped together at Christmas. I mean, just look at how we behave when we’re all stuck in a lift for a couple of minutes! This should be a gripping watch.
Previews from 6 December, opening night 14 December; Sadler's Wells
Rachel: The Red Shoes is a story of obsession, possession and one girl's dream to be the greatest dancer in the world. Give this beloved fairy tale to incredible choreographer Matthew Bourne to adapt for the stage, have it played live by the New Adventures Orchestra, and add sumptuous set and costume design, and you've surely got a production that will make it onto everyone's 'must-see' list.
Much Ado About Nothing (or Love's Labour's Won - Photo: Manuel Harlan)
Previews from 9 December, opening night 17 December; Theatre Royal Haymarket
Dan: Any Shakespeare fan - and who amongst us isn't - has two reasons to be extra excited this Christmas as the Royal Shakespeare Company's productions of Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing head to the Theatre Royal Haymarket. It's a double bill that will warm the hearts of even the coldest of souls this winter.
The cast of Cinderella
Previews from 10 December, opening night 14 December; London Palladium
Robin: After nearly three Christmas pantomime-less decades out of the snow-crested spotlight, how does the London Palladium go about making a grand re-entrance onto the seasonal scene? Hosting a cast including Paul O’Grady, Amanda Holden, Julian Clary (and many more) you say? Perfect! With more lavish design, spectacular staging and glamorous stardust than ever before, this Cinderella looks like one heck of a Ball.
Potted Panto - Snow White
Previews from 10 December, opening night 11 December; Garrick Theatre
Robin: Fancy seeing a pantomime or two? Or seven? Oh, yes you do! And if, like me, you can’t choose between all the festive tales on this season, the hilarious Olivier Award-nominated Potted Panto is perfect. Through a rapid-fire 80-minute tour of classics like Dick Whittington, Jack And The Beanstalk, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, the hilarious dynamic duo Dan and Jeff will pop both a grin on your face and also the cherry on your family Christmas cake.
From 15 December; Phoenix Theatre
Jim: It’s Peppa Pig – it’s going to be great! Perfect for kids, I can’t wait to enjoy the charm and colour of the hit TV show, on stage in London with plenty of Christmas cheer, and for an amazing seventh year in the West End! Plus, it’ll inspire thousands of people to think it’s okay to jump into muddy puddles.
Russell Morton, Toby Manley, Lucy Grattan, Roxanne Palmer in Mr Popper's Penguins (Photo: Helen Murray)
From 15 December; Criterion Theatre
Sinead: Who hasn’t dreamt of opening their front door to discover a penguin? I know I’m not alone in that and if you, like me, love the black and white creatures, you’ll be happy to know that the popular book by Richard and Florence Atwater, Mr Popper’s Penguins, will receive its West End debut this Christmas! With original music and lyrics, this show promises to be the perfect family treat!
Previews from 21 December, opening night 10 January; Wyndham's Theatre
Rachel: The Kite Runner is one of those stories that stays with you, even years after reading it. I can't wait to see this emotional tale played out on stage, especially given that it arrives in the West End on a wave of rave reviews from its UK tour.
National Theatre Olivier
National Theatre Dorfman
Haymarket, Theatre Royal
Haymarket, Theatre Royal