X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke, and local comedian Ben Nickeless are among the names starring in this year’s festive pantomime at Manchester Opera House.
Promising theatre fans “everything you could wish for in a panto”, a festive production of Aladdin is coming to Manchester city centre next month, and will see Alexandra Burke make her pantomime debut as The Spirit of The Ring, joined by local comedian Ben Nickless as Aladdin’s hapless brother Wishee Washee.
Alexandra Burke may already be a household name in the UK – having sold over five million records with chart-toppers such as Bad Boys, Broken Heals, and Hallelujah – but she has now also established herself as one of the UK’s most sought-after West End leading ladies after starring in The Bodyguard, Sister Act, Chess, Chicago, and is currently The Narrator in Michael Harrison’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at The London Palladium.
Rochdale-born comedian Ben Nickless started his working life playing the comedy clubs in the North West, before 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 returns to the Opera House panto, after having already played Muddles in Snow White and Buttons in Cinderella.
Speaking ahead of the panto’s arrival in Manchester, Michael Harrison – Chief Executive of Crossroads Pantomimes – said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Alexandra has agreed to join us in panto this year [as] she’s a first-class performer and her stunning vocals are going to add a whole new dimension to this year’s show.
“Coupled with the quick-wit of the talented Ben Nickless, Manchester audiences are in for a real treat this Christmas.”
Sheena Wrigley – Theatre Director for the Palace and Opera House Theatres – said: “After having to wait a little longer than usual for the fabulous pantomime to return to the Opera House, this year feels even more special for us all and we cannot wait to see families and friends enjoying the magic once more.
“There’s already a real buzz in the air and adding a truly special performer like Alexandra to the mix only adds to the excitement for this year – it can’t come quick enough.”
Further casting will be announced later in the year.
Aladdin is produced by the world’s biggest pantomime producer, Crossroads Pantomimes, and audiences can expect it to feature spectacular special effects, live music, beautiful costumes and stunning sets.
Aladdin runs at Manchester Opera House from Saturday 11 December 2021 to Sunday 2 January 2022.
Tickets prices start at £13, and you can grab yours here.
Featured Image – Palace and Opera
Kids & Family
A Horrible Histories Christmas-themed stage show is happening in Manchester this month
You can discover the story of how Christmas came to be what it is today in a new Horrible Histories stage show in Manchester later this month.
With the festive season officially upon us, temperatures dropping by the day, and Christmas soon to be here before we know it, parents and guardians who are keen to keep the kids entertained but still educated while schools are out can grab tickets to a special Christmas-themed Horrible Histories stage show.
Heading out on a UK tour and stopping off at The Bridgewater Hall here in Manchester in a couple of weeks time, the impressive stage show is described as a festive celebration in the most “wonderful, funny, and moving way you’ll ever see”.
For many of us, when we think of Christmas, the magic of family, joy, goodwill, presents, and more usually come to mind, but how about Oliver Cromwell? Or even Henry VIII?
When Christmas comes under threat from a jolly man dressed in red, it’s up to one young courageous boy to save the day – but can he rescue Christmas? From Victorian villains, to medieval monks, Puritan parties to Tudor treats, you can join the Horrible Histories presents cast on a hair-raising adventure through the history of Christmas.
You’ll be in the company of Charles Dickens, Oliver Cromwell, King Henry VIII ,and St Nicholas as they all join forces to save the festive season.
Horrible Histories Christmas is coming to The Bridgewater Hall on Tuesday 20 December at 11:30am.
The best things to do in Greater Manchester this week | 5 – 11 December 2022
We’re into our second week of December now, and we just can’t get over how festive everything feels across Greater Manchester.
With Christmas cheer having now been firmly spread right across the region, and the big day itself just a matter of weeks away, everyone is getting suitably in the festive spirit and the events calendar is, once again, absolutely jam-packed with plenty to be getting up to, so we’ve cherry-picked a few of the best bits for another edition of our ‘what’s on‘ guide.
As always, some of the events we’re going to mention are completely free, while others will set you back a few pounds, and many will need to be booked in advance.
Here’s our top picks.
Manchester Christmas Markets 2022
Manchester City Centre
Monday 5 – Thursday 22 December
Manchester Christmas Markets 2022 are in full swing.
The iconic annual event – which draws in visitors from all across the globe each year, and has been voted the best Christmas markets in the UK for 2022 – are here once again to spread some cheer right across the city centre.
Open every day until Thursday 22 December, the the main market hubs in will be in Exchange Square, St Ann’s Square, King Street, and Market Street.
Other zones, however, are set to open after Christmas Day and run into the New Year.
You can find out everything you need to know here.
Monday 5 December – onwards
Lightopia has made a return to Heaton Park this year.
Once again lighting up Manchester and captivating audiences for the fourth year in a row, award-winning illuminations event Lightopia is promising to bring the magic of Christmas back to the grounds of Heaton Park from this Thursday – with a brand-new immersive experience set to take over the park until January.
Through brand-new and unseen audiovisual displays, this year’s festival is a “once-in-a-lifetime adventure” for the all the family to enjoy.
Find out more about Lightopia 2022 and grab tickets here.
Monday 5 December – onwards
Did you see that Manchester’s newest cinema on the roof of Depot Mayfield has a whole host of Christmas films on the agenda over the next few weeks?
Backyard Cinema brings its immersive movie going experience to the north for the ever first time, and features way more than a cosy purpose-built cinema room, as it comes complete with an Enchanted Forest, two bars, street food trucks, and a live music stage to boot.
The highly-anticipated and long-awaited exhibit is currently showcasing 145 iconic Banksy pieces all amassed from private collections across the globe to create the world’s largest touring collection of Banksy artworks.
Visitors will have the chance to experience the infamous artist’s most well-known works alongside those rarely seen by the public, all on loan from private collectors.
Proper festive fun for all the family, the Christmas with Paddington grotto experience – which is curated by award-winning experiential events company Bakehouse Factory – includes fun photo opportunities for all ages, the chance to travel through snowy festive trees and scenic street scenes, and so much more.
The FIFA World Cup 2022 is well underway, and Mancs are right to be wondering where to watch the World Cup in Manchester.
International tournaments are always a special occasion we eagerly await to come around and while we’re sure you could walk into any old pub and enjoy yourself, there are some seriously good venues showing Qatar 2022 this winter – so, with that in mind, we thought we’d put together a list of the best places to watch in our city.
Read our round-up list here, and browse for Love Factory tickets here.
Skate Manchester 2022
Monday 5 December- onwards
What’s a festive season in the city without Skate Manchester?
Back once again for 2022 with twinkling lights, the smell of gingerbread, and Christmas songs playing on repeat, Skate Manchester’s stunning outdoor ice rink is in the heart of the city at Cathedral Gardens until 2 January 2023.
With covered rink having a roof to allow everyone to enjoy the ice, whatever the weather, this year, there’s also a brand-new ice path allowing you to skate around the beautiful Christmas tree centre.
Escape to Freight Island has brought its highly-popular Winter Island back to Manchester, just in time to get you in the mood for the festive season.
Having landed at Depot Mayfield‘s premier event space and cargo park, this year’s Winter Island is promising visitors everything from DJs, live entertainment, and Massaoke, to Christmas workshops, pop-up markets, and all the festive food you could hope for.
Food and drink to be scoffed from some of the best local and independent traders.
From Manchester favourites like Northern Soul grilled cheese and the award-winning Great North Pie Co. to Ancoats chocolatiers Cocoa Cabana, who will be letting you create your own boozy hot chocolate (the best kind), there’s so much to tickle your festive fancies.
Popular après-ski village Bar Hütte is officially back in the city centre.
After what was an undeniably successful run in 2021 and the plenty of years prior, Bar Hütte is better than ever this year, with 15 cosy Alpine cabins dotted across the Great Northern square courtyard to bring a lively, festive, and vibrant atmosphere.
Inspired by some of the coolest après ski bars in Europe, there’s everything from live music and free-flowing festive drinks, to the chance to try out the bar’s legendary ‘shot skis’, as well sing-along to all of your favourite tunes inside a private wooden karaoke cabin that’s festooned with twinkling tights.
Cheshire Oaks’ beloved grotto looks a little different to usual as Santa and his trusty elves are taking to the skies and inviting you on a fantastical festive adventure on the outlet’s all-new Big Wheel.
The Santa in the Sky experience is the perfect way to celebrate Christmas as a family this winter, and make memories to last a lifetime.
Open every weekend throughout December, with 10-minutes flights taking place from 10am-1pm, included in the ticket price is four spaces on the Big Wheel flight with Santa and his elves, and you’ll also get to sip on a mulled wine or hot chocolate and enjoy a festive cookie, as well as get a little gift to take home with you from Santa.