Jason Manford to star in massive panto Jack and the Beanstalk in Manchester this year

Jason's back in town with his 'new best mate' Ben Nickless

Daisy Jackson Daisy Jackson - 2nd March 2023

The days are getting lighter, the daffodils bursting into bloom, the weather warming up – and what better time than spring to start planning your festive season… right?

Well like it or not, panto season is shaping up nicely already, with comedy legend Jason Manford lined up to star in this year’s Jack and the Beanstalk at the Manchester Opera House.

The Salford comedian is reuniting with Ben Nickless on stage, with additional dates added due to popular demand.

The announcement yesterday confirmed the return of the beloved theatre’s huge pantomime season, which will kick off from Saturday 2 December 2023.

Jason Manford will star as Jack, while panto favourite Ben will take on the role of Silly Simon. This will be their second year performing together.


Jason began his career in 1999, working at the Buzz Comedy Club in Chorlton, and since then has regularly packed-out theatres and arenas up and down the country with his award-winning comedy.

Jason Manford as Captain Hook in last year's panto
Jason Manford as Captain Hook in last year’s panto. Credit: Publicity picture

He’s a familiar face on TV too, presenting shows like Unbeatable, Sunday Night at The Palladium and The Royal Variety Performance, and on stages in the West End and across the UK.


His previous theatre roles have included Sweeney Todd, The Producers, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Guys and Dolls, and Curtains.

On his return to panto after a triumphant year as Captain Hook in The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan, Jason Manford said: “I know I joked about Peter Pan being my ‘farewell debut’ in Panto, but in truth I had such a wonderful time last Christmas that I was itching to do it again.

“So, to be invited back to the Opera House in Manchester with such a fun and collaborative company and alongside my new best mate, the hilarious Ben Nickless, well, how could I say no?


“This Christmas I’ll be putting down the hook and stepping into the title role in Jack and the Beanstalk, and I’m very much looking forward to playing the nice guy!

“The Manchester audiences are second to none, so I’m really honoured to be part of your Christmas panto tradition once again.”

Britain’s Got Talent finalist and Rochdale native Ben Nickless started his working life playing the comedy clubs in the North-West and his career took off in 2006 when he performed his own style of comedy and impressions on the BBC television series Let Me Entertain You alongside Brian Conley and Christine Bleakley, winning his episode.

Ben, who returns to the Opera House for his fifth consecutive year, said: “I’m delighted to be coming back to Manchester for my fifth pantomime at the Opera House and especially convincing Jason to come back with me (didn’t take much… a caramel latte, 2 steak bakes and a yum yum from Greggs). Jason and I had such a great time working and laughing together last year, we thought we should do one more together and I can’t wait to get started on some new routines for the amazing Manchester audiences.

Michael Harrison, chief executive of the UK’s biggest pantomime producer Crossroads Pantomimes said: “Jason was such a hit last year in Manchester that it was a no brainer to ask him back for another season, he is a comedic legend and together with Opera House favourite Ben Nickless the show has all the ingredients to delight comedy lovers looking for a great time this Christmas.


“I’m thrilled to have them both back for the gigantic adventure of Jack and the Beanstalk this Christmas at The Opera House.”

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Robin Hawkes, theatre director of the Palace Theatre and Opera House said: “Last year was our most successful pantomime to date, with thousands of visitors relishing what quickly became a showstopping partnership between Jason and Ben.

“The entire show was a runaway success, and we are therefore thrilled these two titans of comedy will be reunited on our stage later this year. Our pantomimes are a well-loved festive staple for many, and we’re excited to welcome current and first-time theatregoers to experience what is sure to be a gigantic success for both the Opera House and Manchester’s ever-growing cultural scene.”

Jack and the Beanstalk replaces the originally announced production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and will now run from Saturday 2 December through to New Year’s Eve, with the addition of eight more shows due to popular demand.

You can buy your tickets here.

Featured image: Publicity picture