IT’S that special time of year again, when we all become cheerful by watching Jimmy Stewart be miserable.

Of course, Jimmy is only depressed for the first 130 minutes of It’s A Wonderful Life.

He brightens up considerably during the last sixty seconds of the movie, and with the use of a magnifying glass you can just about detect the faintest flicker of a smile on his face as the credits role.

There really is no reason for Jimmy to be such a grumpy-boots, especially at Christmas time. After all, Santa is on his way, plus this is the season of feel-good festive theatre for all the family.

Here’s our pick of the best live shows around Scotland, to ensure that you don’t end up as a seasonal saddo like sulky Mr Stewart…

A Christmas Carol

CHRISTMAS would be a rather sickly-sweet affair - like a clootie dumpling dipped in marzipan - if it wasn’t for the spice provided by a certain grumpy, growly, grizzled old guy with a penchant for penny pinching and snarling, “Bah humbug!” at the drop of a (top) hat.

We’re talking about Ebenezer Scrooge, of course. The satanic version of Santa, with a heart as cold and crusty as the tip of a snowman’s carrot nose.

Scrooge, played by Benny Young, will be leaving his usual London haunts this year to visit Glasgow’s Tramway in this visually stunning and deliciously dark version of Charles Dickens’ classic ghost tale.

And will Ebenezer learn to be a nicer geezer? Now that would be telling…

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Now – 24 Dec.


THE tale of a scrubber who scrubs up nicely. Along with the constant scrubbing, poor Cinders is a dab hand at mopping, brushing, polishing and soaking dishes in hot soapy water. But it’s just not that fulfilling as a career.

To escape domestic drudgery our glum gal could perhaps bombard Fortune 500 companies with copies of her CV.

But, no. She has a better plan. Meet a hot fella, flush with folding bits of green paper. And a Prince of the Charming lineage may be the very chap she’s after…

This magical version of the classic fairy tale is resplendent with lavish costumes and scenery, and stars Elaine C. Smith and cookie comic turn, Johnny Mac.

King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Now – 2 Jan.

The Magical Adventures of Cinderella

POOR old Cinders! Just when she thought she had escaped the grind of abject poverty at the climax of the King’s Theatre production, now suddenly, here she is, over at the Pavilion, right back where she started. Hands plunged in the kitchen sink’s soapy water, scrub, scrub, scrubbing those dirty dishes.

Though this version of the classic tale doesn’t just have soap bubbles. It also has soap stars, including Stephen Purdon, who plays Bob O’Hara in River City, and the suspiciously similar sounding Boabina in this production.

His TV sidekick, Scott Fletcher - Angus Lindsay in River City – also tugs on his thigh-slapping panto tights to play Dandini.

Pavilion, Glasgow, Now – 8 Jan.


HE’S the scrappy chappie with a scrap iron fetish. Aladdin is the show that proves that, no matter how cluttered your house becomes, it’s never a good idea to chuck away old tat. Especially if it’s lamp-shaped old tat. Because there might just be a jovial genie lurking inside, giving away bargain-basement wishes.

The SEC Armadillo is a big space to fill, and this panto crams that space with outsize performances and huge special effects.

Gary: Tank Commander star Greg McHugh provides just the right amount of daftness in his leading role.

SEC Armadillo, Glasgow, 11 Dec – 29 Dec.

The McDougalls Christmas SingAlong

BELIEVE it or not, Christmas is meant to be about the kiddies. Oh sure, adults can have some fun, too, with the mistletoe, the merrymaking and the eggnog bottle emptying.

But you should never forget that the focus is on the little ‘uns. Luckily the madcap McDougalls will be around to dish out heaps of entertainment for children of all ages.

Max and Auntie Aggie provide an hour of festive fun, with oodles of audience participation and musical mayhem.

Fizzing festive tunes include Jingle Bells and When Santa Got Stuck Up The Chimney. There’s even a chance to win prizes…

Education Rooms at Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 20 Dec – 22 Dec.

RSNO Christmas Concert Featuring The Snowman

SCOTLAND’S National Orchestra will be providing a snow-flake flurry of festive fun… though with strings attached.

Violin and cello strings, that is.

The nation’s crack classical troupe will be playing popular festive melodies as well as accompanying a showing of the wonderfully wintry cartoon, The Snowman, which will be shown in all its tear-jerking glory on a big screen.

Comedy actor Hugh Dennis narrates.

Guaranteed to have you walking in the air…

Music Hall Aberdeen (16 Dec) Caird Hall Dundee (17 Dec) Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (18 Dec) Usher Hall, Edinburgh (19 Dec).

A Christmas Carol

SCROOGE may profess to hate Christmas. But it’s clear that Christmas doesn’t hate him. Not only is he being warmly embraced by Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre this festive season (see above) he’s also going down a (snow) storm in Dundee.

This musical version of Dickens’ classic tale of misanthropy and midnight hauntings was devised by Noisemaker, the company behind popular shows such as Oor Wullie and The Snow Queen, and it includes audience interaction. Directed by Andrew Panton, it features 11 actors who also play musical instruments.

Dundee Rep, Now – 31 Dec.

Christmas Dinner

THE Catherine Wheels Theatre Company teamed up with the Lyceum to stage this play about Christmas Dinner which certainly isn’t a turkey of a production.

It features a grumpy stage hand who has endured a yucky year and now demands that Christmas should be made kaput.

As she’s shutting down the theatre, and resigning herself to a solitary sandwich back home, magical things begin to happen around her, with festive spirits emerging from the costume cupboard.

Perhaps Christmas isn’t going to be such a woeful washout, after all…

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, 6 Dec – 2 Jan.

Sleeping Beauty

IT’S never a good idea to fall asleep on the job, especially when your job involves being beautiful. Just ask any social media influencer, who will patiently explain how hard they work taking selfies and updating their Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Alas, the female protagonist of Sleeping Beauty is a bit of a snooze fiend, though it’s not entirely her fault. A spell from a wicked witch is the reason she’s enjoying 40 (thousand) winks.

This traditional show features a host of local stalwarts of the “He’s behind you!” scene, including Allan Stewart, Grant Stott and Jordan Young.

Beauty may be sleeping soundly, but with that sort of talent up on stage, the audience is sure to be in wide awake land.

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, now until 16 Jan.

The Nutcracker

A FESTIVE season without The Nutcracker is like turkey minus stuffing and cranberry sauce. In other words, drearily dry and very hard to swallow.

So thank goodness that Scottish Ballet are once more ravishing the senses with this feast of a family adventure based on the tale by E.T.A. Hoffmann, with unforgettable music by Tchaikovsky.

On Christmas Eve young Clara drifts off to sleep and journeys into a world as magical and mysterious as a shaken snow-globe, where she meets the dashing Nutcracker Prince, the Rat King and the Sugar Plum Fairy.

A sumptuous feast of sight and sound awaits. This is what a classy Christmas is truly all about.

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (Now – 31 Dec); Theatre Royal, Glasgow (5 Jan – 15 Jan); His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen (19 Jan – 22 Jan); Eden Court, Inverness (26 Jan – 29 Jan).

Phil Cunningham and his Christmas Songbook

CHRISTIAN tradition bumps into traditional music with this popular annual entertainment, which has now been running for well over a decade. Some of the finest musicians on the Scottish folk scene, including Phil, himself, on accordion, and singer Eddi Reader, will be providing cracking Christmas music, along with humorous anecdotes.

What to expect: Lots of delightful twiddly-diddly music.

What not to expect: A hipster DJ mixing club classics on the decks… Though you never know, folk music is becoming increasingly eclectic… (Only kidding. That’s NEVER going to happen.)

Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries, 14 Dec; The Albert Halls, Stirling, 15 Dec; Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, 16 Dec; Music Hall, Aberdeen, 18 Dec; Concert Hall, Perth, 19 Dec; The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Dec 20 & 21.

Unicorn Christmas Party

DO unicorns really exist? We’re not too sure. (Unlike Santa Claus, of course, who we know is definitely real. After all, who else could be feeding Rudolph all those reindeer snacks?)

Meanwhile, the unicorn mystery might be on the cusp of being solved, as a real, live pair of them have been spotted at this quirky Crimbo event, singing their little reindeer hearts out while showcasing some nifty dance moves. (Those reindeer legs sure can do a hot-hoof shuffle.)

This show will be enjoyed by all aspiring unicorns, aged 7 and under (plus their families). It includes a bunch of popular Christmas songs, plus easy-to-follow dance moves.

Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, Now – 23 Dec.

Cinderella 2: I Married a Numpty

AN update of Oran Mor’s popular panto from 2017. Expect some gritty Glesga goings on in this ditzy iteration of the classic fairy tale.

Cinderella has married Prince Kelvie, a G-Twelvie (aka Prince Charming). But what happens next?

It transpires that palace life is all trouble and strife, so Cinders makes a bid for freedom. Though Ugly Sister, Wan-Tooth Winnie, just might have something to say about her chances of bumping into a happy ever after.

This is trad panto turned topsy-turvy. Never mind the glass slipper. Oran Mor is all about the reBOOT.

Oran Mor, Glasgow, Now – 31 Dec.

Olive The Other Reindeer

IN celebrity circles Rudolph is the most in-demand reindeer. The one interviewed by all the glossy gossip mags. The one in the backseat of the stretch limo, arriving at yet another Hollywood shindig, then having a regal temper tantrum when he notices that the red carpet he’s walking on clashes with his shiny nose…

But what about Mr Claus’s other reindeers? The ones who aren’t nearly so famous?

This show is about one of them, Olive, who has eagerly enlisted in Santa’s Training School, and now only needs to pass her exams to ride alongside Rudolph.

But when Olive discovers there’s a naughty list – a group of children that are going to wake up to no presents on Christmas Day – she realises she has to stand up for the poor scamps...

This festive performance is for under twelves and their families. Plus naughty-step lurkers everywhere.

Tron Theatre, Glasgow, 14 Dec – 24 Dec.

Beauty & the Beast

NO, this isn’t a biographical show focusing on the love life of Rod Stewart. Instead, it’s the unfortunate tale of Belle, who ends up on the worst blind date imaginable. Hoping for a hottie hunk, she instead meets a hirsute hulk of a fellow, who clearly hasn’t visited a Boots chemist to purchase a Bic razor in a very long time.

But maybe if Belle sticks around she can tame her wild beast. Or, at the very least, teach him how to use a knife and fork and wipe his fearsome fizzog with a napkin.

This all-star panto features River City’s Joyce Falconer and Call the Midwife’s Laura Main.

His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, Now – 2 Jan.

Jamie & the Unicorn… A legend of a panto

UNICORNS, it transpires, are a lot like buses. You don’t spot one of the shy and retiring fellows for ages, then a bunch clip-clop into view, all at the same time.

As mentioned above, the half horsy, half horny beasties are already running riot in Aberdeen. And it seems one has also ambled into Ayrshire to star in this panto with plenty of local charm, about a mythical creature who misses a turning in the road and finds itself lost in Alloway forest.

Wicked spell-weaver Gowdie Banadook plots to steal the unicorn’s power, before putting a curse on Ayrshire, and condemning the region to everlasting winter. (Which some amateur meteorologists may conclude has already happened.)

The Gaiety, Ayr, Now – 24 Dec.

The Wizard of Shawz – The Panto With Jawz

IT seems that the yellow brick road doesn’t just run through the kingdom of Oz. It can also be found in the (not quite so magical) city of Glasgow. In Shawlands, to be precise, where Dotty McLuckie has lost her ruby slippers yet must somehow find her way home.

And, no, that doesn’t mean jumping on the all night bus. Instead, she has to team-up with the Rampant Lion, the Tin-der Man and The Scarycrow to discover what fate has in store for her, somewhere over the rainbow.

The show also includes plenty of songs to sing along with and topical gags focusing on local issues.

The Shed, Glasgow, 8 Dec – 12 Dec.

Christmas Spectacular

WHEN you put on a show and decide to call it a ‘spectacular’, you’re giving yourself a heck of a lot to live up to.

For your eager audience will never let you get away with plonking a wee chap up on stage to play the greatest hits of Black Lace on a pair of rusty spoons.

Thankfully, this particular Christmas Spectacular has no Black Lace and no musical eating utensils, either. (Rusty, or otherwise.)

It’s pure spectacle all the way, with West End vocalists Tim Howard and Kerry Ellis delivering popular seasonal songs, including Merry Christmas Everyone, Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bell Rock.

They are joined on stage by a full orchestra and a posse of high-kicking dancers called the Jingle Belles.

Tinseltastic top-drawer entertainment all the way.

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 20 December.

White Christmas – The Musical

SONGWRITER Irving Berlin could almost be said to have invented the modern version of the festive period, with its emphasis on nostalgia, cosy crooning and white fluffy stuff fluttering from a cold blue sky.

This time of year couldn’t possibly exist without Berlin’s popular showtune, White Christmas, which is, of course, performed in this version of the classic Hollywood musical.

Edinburgh Playhouse, 14 Dec – 2 Jan.

Peter Pan

GIFFNOCK is usually a rather sedate and somnambulant corner of the West Coast of Scotland. Though not this December, when a pirate ship will hove ominously into view. (We’re not entirely sure how it will make its way down the Ayr Road on its journey to Eastwood Park Theatre. Perhaps it’s a pirate ship with a skateboard wedged beneath its hull.)

Battling against Captain Hook and his gang of wicked seafaring fellows will be a certain youthful chap in green tights and a jaunty green hat.

And, rest assured, he’s bound to bring with him a fair amount of Peter Pandemonium.

Eastwood Park Theatre, East Renfrewshire, Now – 30 Dec.