IT'S the season to be jolly . . . panto time is back, with

theatres up and down Scotland offering such traditional fare as slapstick comedy, playful innuendo, vibrant music, and colourful cross-dressing. Cinderella is clearly the hot favourite this year.

There are also two versions of both Aladdin and The Wizard of Oz, while panto fans can roam further by taking to the seven seas with Captain Hook or enter enchanted realms in Tales of the Arabian Nights.

Alternatives to the pantomime format include a staged version of The Borrowers and the musical Christmas version of The Singing Kettle.

We bring you the definitive guide to what's on.

Cinderella, Her Majesty's

Theatre, Rosemount Viaduct

n HMT celebrates its 90th birthday the traditional way with the quintessential pantomime. Aye, it's Cinderella. Written by Vivien Heilbron and directed by Andy Gray, it features Alison Douglas (from TV's Skoosh) as Cinderella, David Rintoul (pictured, Dr Findlay) as Baron Hardup, Andy Gray as Buttons, and Vivien Heilbron as the Fairy Godmother.

The production is choreographed by Jane Longfield with costumes designed by E&B Productions. As an added feature, members of the audience will be required to don Edwardian costume on the opening night to commemorate the theatre's beginnings in 1906.

The show runs from December 6 to January 4. Performances are at 7pm, with matinees at 2.30. Box office: (01224) 641 122.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Cumbernauld Theatre, Kildrum

n A Christmas show with pantomime ingredients is the description of Simon Sharkey's adaptation of the thirteenth-century German legend. The show combines slapstick comedy, audience participation and music especially composed by Richard Cherns.

It stars Gilbert Martin, Tony Ventre (who was in last year's show Rumplestiltskin), Ronnie McCann (who recently appeared in EastEnders), and Kate Cook. The sets are designed by Graham Hunter and the costumes by Maggie Miller. The show runs from Thursday-December 28. Performances are at 10am, 1pm and 7pm. Box office: (01236) 732887.

The Wizard of Oz, Dundee Repertory Theatre, Tay Square

n Join Dorothy and friends yet again in their journey down the Yellow Brick Road. The show stars Gail Watson as Dorothy, Sandra Duncan as the Wicked Witch of the West, and Victor Greene as the Wizard of Oz.

Directed by Richard Baron (Glass Menagerie and Dangerous Liaisons), the show features songs such as Over the Rainbow and We're off to see the Wizard from the legendary Hollywood film. It runs from Friday-January 11. Evening performances are at 7.15 with matinees at 2.30. Box office: (01382) 223530.

Hook, Cinderella, East Kilbride Arts Centre, Old Coach Road

n The panto enthusiast has a choice of two productions running here this Christmas. KYBO Theatre Company's crazy Christmas cracker is Hook, written and directed by Gerry McHugh.

Flavoured with an Eastern European brand of humour reinforced by some startling props, it stars Raymond Burke, one of the founder members of the Arches Theatre Company, as Hook, Denise Donnolly as Peter Pan, and Jane Dunbar as Smee. The production's music is composed by Gerry McHugh and Raymond Burke with costumes designed by Joan Gray. The show runs from December 12-23. Evening performances are at 8pm with matinees at 2pm.

Cinderella, Hopscotch

Theatre Company

n One of a quintet of Cinderellas, with a healthy dose of Glasgow-based humour and seasoned with Spice Girls-inspired choreography, it says here.

Directed by Grant Smeaton, who also composed the production's music, it stars Lou Ludgate as Cinderella, Ian Bustard (currently to be seen in The Crow Road) as the Prince/Fairy Godfather, and Kirsty (Maggie) Miller as one of the Ugly Sisters. The set is designed by Veronica Rennie with costumes by Rita Winters. The show runs December 11-13. Performances are at 1.30pm. Box 0ffice: (01355) 261000.

Sleeping Beauty, Royal Lyceum, Grindlay Street

n The Royal Lyceum takes you on a journey through strange and magic lands with Stuart Paterson's adaptation.

It stars Victoria Hardcastle as Zielle the Good Witch, Irene MacDougall (pictured) as Talassa the Wicked Witch, and Billy Boyd, who have all appeared regularly at the Lyceum, plus newcomer Iona Barns, a recent RSAMD graduate. Directed by Hugh Hodgart with music by Savourna Stevenson. Costumes are designed by Gregory Smith. The show runs December 6-January 4. Performances are at 7pm, with matinees at 2.30. Box office: (0131) 229 9697.

Robinson Crusoe, King's

Theatre, Leven Street,

n Buckle your swashes for David Essex. It is a mighty long way down rock 'n' roll from Stardust but he will be treating the audience to some of his classic songs including Hold Me Close and Gonna Make You A Star.

Also features Verity Leigh as Polly Crusoe and 20 local children dressed as animals. Written by David Joss Buckley and produced in conjunction with Stuart Littlewood for International Artistes, the show runs December 12-January 25. Performances are at 7pm, with most matinees at 2pm. Box office: (0131) 220 4349.

Cinderella, Pavilion,

Renfield Street

n This Cinderella claims to be the cheapest, with tickets at 1986 prices.

A traditional family panto, it is set in the nineties. Topical touches include adaptations of hits by Oasis and the Spice Girls. The production is written by Russell Lane and directed by John Murtagh.

Following last year's success in Aladdin, The Krankies return to The Pavilion with Jeanette playing Buttons and Ian as one of the Ugly Sisters. Natalie Robb, from Scottish Television's High Road stars as Cinderella and Mary Riggans plays the Fairy Godmother. Costumes are designed by Trends Costumes.

The show runs December 3-January 25. Performances at 7.30, with matinees at 2pm. All tickets #5.50 and #4.50. Box 0ffice (0141) 332 1846.

The Borrowers, Cottier

Theatre, Hyndland Street

n Those in search of an alternative to the pantomime scene are catered for by Fablevision's Christmas show which forgoes panto largesse for the miniature world of The Borrowers.

Based on the novel by Mary Norton and written by the Fringe First-winning playwright Chris Ballance, the show combines giant props and special effects to appeal to both adults and children. Directed by Liz Gardiner with music by Alan Tall, it stars Eve Keepax, who was in the Traverse's Bondagers and the Royal Lyceum's production of The Snow Queen, as Homily. Keith McPherson plays Pod, and Rebecca Robinson, one of

the founder members of the Scottish company Benchtours, is Arietty.

The show runs from tomorrow-January 4. Performances will be at 10.15am and 1pm until December 13 and at 7pm December 16-January 4. Matinees will be at 2.30, December 23-January 4. Box office: (0141) 357 3868.

Cinderella, King's Theatre, Bath Street

n Rab C. Nesbitt faces Elaine C. Smith (pictured) and Barbara Rafferty play the Ugly Sisters, Gerrard (City Lights) Kelly is Buttons, and Blue Peter's John Leslie pops up in something he prepared earlier, the very different role of Prince Charming. The show is directed by Alex Norton and written by Bob Black, another City Lights name, with costumes by Terry Parsons.

The show runs December 6-January 18. Performances are at 7pm and matinees at 2.15. Box 0ffice: (0141) 248 5153.

The Wizard of Oz, Citizens' Theatre, Gorbals Street

n Enter the magical land of Oz with Dorothy and friends in Frank Baum's classic tale. Starring Rachel Pittman as Dorothy, Barry Hunter as the Wizard, and Carol Brannan as the Wicked Witch of the West. The show is directed by Giles Havergal with costumes designed by Kenny Miller and music from the MGM motion picture.

The show runs December 3-January 18. Performances are at 7/8 pm with matinees at 2pm (except Sunday). Box office: (0141) 429 0022.

Tales of the Arabian Nights, Tron, Parnie Street

n This year's Christmas show is, like last year's Tall Tales, presented by Communicado. Tales of the Arabian Nights is written and directed by Gerry Mulgrew and stars Carol Ann Crawford (Taggart, Brookside) as Mother Baghdad, Veronica Leer (Rab C. Nesbitt) as Princess Sharazad, Michael Nardone as Sinbad the Sailor, Rob Pickavance as King Shazaman, and Malcolm Shields as Wee Shokran the Genie.

The show focuses on the theme of storytelling and is broken into five parts. Suitable for both adults and children, it offers an alternative to traditional pantomime humour. The show's music is composed by Steve Kettley, best known for his long-standing involvement with the Cauld Blast Orchestra and Salsa Celtica, with costumes are designed by Karen Tennent.

The show runs from December 10-January 4. Evening performances are at 7.30, with matinees at 2pm. Box office: (0141) 552 4267.

Singing Kettle, SECC, Finnieston

n Spout, handle, lid of metal, the Singing Kettle quartet are packing them in as usual down at the SECC. Once described as ``pantomime without the boring bits'', their own brand of entertainment is this year based on the theme of Christmas wishes.

The show is presented by Cilla Fisher, Artie Trezise, and Jane Fisher, with Gary Coupland providing accompaniment. The show runs December 5-28. Performance times vary. Box office: (0141) 248 9999.

Aladdin, Eden Court Theatre, Bishop's Road

n The genie is let out from the lamp once more. Lyndsey Todd (Byker Grove) is the Princess in a production that also features Cobra from TV's Gladiators and Billy Riddoch from Hamish Macbeth as Abanazer. Directed and choreographed by Sheridan Nicol and produced by Chris Yates, it features music by Chris Summerfield. The show runs December 5-January 4. Performances are at 7pm with matinees at 1.30/2.15. Box office: (01463) 234234/221718.

Aladdin, Palace Theatre,

Green Street

n Chris McLure stars in the title role, Ken Gibson plays Widow Twankey, Jimmy Nairn from TV's Funny You Should Say That is Wishee-Washee, Michael Mackenzie from Cardiac Arrest is Abanazer, and Derek Lord from High Road is the Emperor. Written and directed by Anne Fields with choreography by Patsy Murray and music by Mark Edwards. The show runs from December 4-January 11. Performances are at 7pm, with matinees at 1.30 and 2pm. Selected morning performances at 10. Box office: (01563) 523590.

The Puddock and the Princess, The Wynd Theatre

n The Wynd presents its first Christmas show, the Rowan Tree Company's production. This Scottish fantasy/comedy, based on a fairytale, has proved popular at previous showings.

Written by David Purvis and directed by Judy Steele, it stars John Gallacher as the Puddock, Joanne Davy and Helen Devon as the princesses, and Hilary Bell as the Wicked Queen. The show runs January 2-4. Performances are at 8pm. Box office: (01896) 823 854.

Fortunate Jock and the Three Golden Hairs, Brunton Theatre Company, Town Hall

n A Christmas Show with a Scottish flavour. This is adapted from the original Grimm tale by John Harvey and is directed by Robin Peoples. It features an experienced cast including Gregor Duncan, Gill Robertson, and David Goodall. Music is composed by David Goodall and the costumes are designed by Jessica Brettle. The show runs December 23-28. Performances are at 6pm with matinees at 2pm. Box office: (0131) 665 2240.

Jack and the Beanstalk, Arts Centre, New Street

n Magic beans, giants, and a friendly cow. Written and directed by the self-professed ``butchest dame in Scots panto land'', David Wallace, it features original music by David Ramsay. The production stars Craig Fraser as Jack, David Wallace as Widow Crockett, Gregor Powrie as Bill/the Giant, and Mhairi Gilbert-Wallace as the Queen. Costumes are designed by Donald MacLean. The show runs from December 2-28. Performances are at 7pm, with matinees at 2/3pm. Box office: (0141) 8871010.

Sinbad The Sailor, Perth Repertory Theatre, High Street

n Stars John Ramage as the Dame, Martin James (Taggart) as the Boson/Caliph, and Amanda Beveridge as Sinbad. Written by the theatre's new artistic director, Michael Winter, and directed by John Scrimger, set design is by Alison Taylor and costume design by Linda Waites. The show runs December 16-December 23. Performances are at 7.30 and matinees are at 2.30. Box office: (01738) 621 031.

Cinderella, MacRobert Arts Centre, University of Stirling

n Cinders strikes again in Stuart Paterson's adaptation. Directed by Hamish Glen with music by Gordon Dougall, who also composed the score for the film The Bruce. Louise Montgomery stars as Cinderella, Muriel Romanes - whose television credits include Dr Findlay and Taggart - plays the Fairy Godmother/Wicked Stepmother, and John Stahl (pictured) plays the Father/ King.

The show runs from Friday-December 28. Evening performances are at 7.30 with matinees at 2pm. Box office: (01786) 461081.