THE festive season fast approaches. At this very moment, somewhere in the North Pole, Mrs Claus is ironing the creases out of a crumpled Santa suit, while at the same time admonishing her hubby for munching too many kebabs during the last 12 months, meaning it’ll be a squish and a squeeze jamming himself down all those chimneys. Christmas isn’t just about those rare occasions when Santa forces himself to eat salad.
It’s also a time for theatrical entertainment for all the family. These are our favourite festive extravaganzas, coming to a stage near you …

Peter Pan 
Hydro, Glasgow 29-30Dec 

The Hydro panto is always a star-studded affair. This year is no exception, with 1980s pop legend, Boy George, playing the unfortunate sailor with a hook for a hand.
We’re guessing that when Tinkerbell wallops him, poor George will be begging for mercy and bleating the lyrics from his most famous song… “Karma, karma, karma, karma, karma chameleon…”
No, wait. 
That’s not right. 
He’ll be singing: “Do you really want to hurt me?”

Cinderella is one of Sergei Prokofiev’s most famous ballets, though this version has an intriguing spin to the tale. (Perhaps we mean pirouette, not spin, this being ballet, after all.)
In Cinders, Scottish Ballet has concocted two very different stories, and audiences won’t know which one they’ve come to see until the curtain rises.
Some nights, Cinders will be a woman, swept off her feet by her prince. Other nights, Cinders will be a fella, swept off his feet by his princess.
Confusing? Just a smidgen. A quirky, imaginative variation on a classic ballet? Most definitely.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 
King’s Theatre, Glasgow, 2 Dec-7 Jan

Johnny Mac is one of the best things about a Glasgow Christmas.
The comic actor is pretty much panto perfection, and he’s probably played Buttons more often than the wooden toggle on a duffel coat.
This year he’ll instead be gurning it up in Snow White, though we predict he’ll be as gloriously gormless as ever, for the return of the Mac is always to be relished.
Her offa telly, Elaine C Smith, also has a starring role, and she must be pretty decent, because she’s got a middle initial in her name, and you’re only permitted one of those in showbiz-land if you’re a bona fide legend. 
(See WC Fields for confirmation.)

The Herald: Johnny McKnight Johnny McKnight (Image: unknown)

Aganeza Scrooge
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, 29 Nov-7 Jan

Talking of showbiz legends, Johnny McKnight is another, even if he doesn’t have a middle initial to brag about. 
What he does have is a theatrical pedigree second to none, having written several of the punchiest, most pizazz-sparkled Scottish pantos of recent years.
Johnny gets the local humour. He understands the sneakily subversive nature of the art form. He knows how to modernise and make relevant, without losing the traditional ditz and glitz.
His super-sassy spin on Dickens’s Christmas Carol is bound to be a cocksure, cockamamie classic.

The Herald: Snow White and the Seven MawsSnow White and the Seven Maws (Image: Martin Shields)

Snow White and the Seven Maws 
Oran Mor, Glasgow, 28 Nov-6 Jan

Remember we told you that Mr J McKnight Esq is the undisputed heavyweight of Scottish panto?(It was in the last paragraph, so you better not have forgotten.) 
Well, heeeeere’s Johnny! (Again.)  The busy fella has somehow managed to also scribble the script for Oran Mor’s production of Snow White and the Seven Maws. This deeply philosophical show attempts to answer the eternal conundrum: “Mirror, mirror on the wa’, who’s the radgest of them aw’?”
It’s a Wonderful Life 
GFT, Glasgow, 15 Dec -24 Dec

Every December, Glaswegians escape their miserable lives by traipsing over to the GFT to watch Jimmy Stewart’s miserable life, instead.
During the first two hours, nine minutes of It’s a Wonderful Life the audience is left wondering when the “wonderful” bit is going to kick in.
Lanky Jimmy – who stars as George Bailey in this classic flick – has a terrible time, getting slapped in the lughole, missing out on a fun jaunt round the world, marrying a sweet-tempered and beautiful woman. (OK, that last one ain’t so bad. But by the time George gets betrothed, he’s in a pretty snarky mood, and even discovering a leprechaun’s stash at the end of a rainbow wouldn’t cheer him up.)
Just when the GFT audience is about to demand its money back, there’s a glorious final 60 seconds of optimism and cheer. 
Which is very much in the spirit of the season. For December 25 is all about relentless misery, until your irritating relatives retreat to their own homes, leaving you to finish off the remains of the Quality Street in blissful peace.

The Rat Pack at Christmas
Glasgow  Royal Concert Hall, 13 Dec

Nothing says Christmas like a diminutive Italian/American bloke with a big voice and a penchant for hanging out with fedora-wearing Mafioso types.
OK, that’s not strictly true. Frank Sinatra rarely got confused with the jolly old fella in the red-and-white shell suit. No-one called the Hoboken crooner Frank Santa, after all.
Still, there is something warm and cosy about Franky Boy’s warbling, which is the aural equivalent of an overflowing jug of eggnog.  
The Rat Pack at Christmas showcases the vocal talent of Stephen Triffitt, doing a triffic version of Sinatra. George Daniel Long, as Sammy Davis Jnr, and Mark Adams as Dean Martin, are equally impressive.

The Herald: Treasure IslandTreasure Island (Image: unknown)

Treasure Island
Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow, 30 Nov-14 Jan

We’re not entirely sure how Treasure Island got adapted into panto. It’s not especially Christmassy, being set in a warm climate with sandy beaches and blue skies. Also, the original Robert Louis Stevenson yarn is pretty grounded, with nothing in the way of pixie dust. Though it does have a bunch of yo-ho-hoing pirates, much like Peter Pan, plus it promises to be packed with thrills and spills aplenty. 
Regardless of the source material, the Pavilion Christmas show is always a raucous, down-to-earth delight, loaded with local talent. 
River City regulars Stephen Purdon and Scott Fletcher star, while wrestler Grado swaps spandex tights for a jaunty pirate tricorn hat.

The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan 
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, 25 Nov-31 Dec

More Peter Pandemonium in Edinburgh, courtesy of the dream team that is Allan Stewart, Grant Stott and Jordan Young. 
These madcap musketeers dominate the east coast pantomime scene in much the same way that a poncho-clad Clint Eastwood once dominated his raggedy mule. 
Nowadays, of course, Edinburgh is famous for its castle, its summer arts shindig and these three fine comedy thespians.
Grab tickets, and discover why.

Mother Goose
Harlequin Youth Theatre, Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock, 16-20 Jan

Christmas shows are like turkey. Cold leftovers tend to linger, well after December 25. 
And like a stodgy turkey sarnie, many panto actors grow a little stale by January, delivering peely-wally performances.
That’s not the case with Harlequin Youth Theatre. By mid-January they’re just getting revved-up, plus their youthful energy ensures each performance of Mother Goose is packed with perky passion.
Unlike cold turkey, this goose is smoking hot, and loaded with flavour.