Summer Strallen in Dick Whittington and His Cat
(© Barbican)
Summer Strallen in Dick Whittington and His Cat
(© Barbican)
Christmas in London means the three P's: pies, plum pudding, and pantomimes. It's the season when fairy tales are adapted to the stage for kids of all ages - usually with a lot of cross-dressing involved. This year, Mark Ravenhill, whose mind is usually on much more somber subject matter, has come up with his take on Dick Whittington and His Cat as part of the Barbican's annual BITE festival (through January 20). The director is the very hot Edward Hall.

The panto at the Hackney Empire is Cinderella (December 2-January 13), which the venue is calling their biggest effort ever. Meanwhile American film and television star Henry Winkler, will appear in Peter Pan at the New Wimbledon (December 7-January 14) as the whiskers-twirling Captain Hook.

Other holiday fare includes The Mouse Queen done as a puppet show at the Hampstead (December 7-January 6); Lauren Childs' That Pesky Rat, which Jonathan Lloyd has theatricalized at the Soho (December 3-January 7); a stage adaptation of Raymond Briggs' 1978 novel The Snowman at the Peacock (December 6-January 7); and the Young Vic's production of The Enchanted Pig (December 1-January 27).

The National Theater, where the tradition is to have at least one seasonal offering, is bringing back Helen Edmundson's acclaimed adaptation of Jamila Gavin's Coram Boy (through February 20). It's the story of a father, a son, and the son's violin -- and is given the extravaganza treatment, complete with excerpts from Handel. Those wanting to combine Chanukah with Christmas will want to keep in mind that the Tony Kushner-Jeanine Tesori Caroline, or Change continues at the Lyttleton (through April 1). The young Jewish boy here, whom Kushner has based on himself, learns a few tart lessons about race relations from the cleaning lady.

Heading to the West End, John Kolvenbach's new comedy Love Song at the New Ambassadors (through March 3) stars Hollywood favorites Neve Campbell, Kristen Johnston, Michael McKean and Cillian Murphy in the story of an eccentric young man, his new main squeeze, and his sister and brother-in-law. Fresh from five women collaborators is Catch at the Royal Court's Jerwood Theatre Upstairs (December 1-22). Another debut is On Religion by Mick Gordon and AC Grayling at the Soho (through January 6). This one tackles touchy queries about faith likely to be on theatergoers' minds this time of year.

The absolute must-see of the season is Peter Morgan's startling Frost/Nixon, which has moved from the Donmar to the Gielgud -- before hitting Broadway in the spring -- with Michael Sheen and Frank Langella continuing as the eponymous figures David Frost and Richard Nixon (through February 3). Those searching for their London Bard fix can fetch up at the Novello ticket window for The Royal Shakespeare Company's Much Ado About Nothing (December 7-January 6).

Two recent offerings make their return to London this month: Alan Bennett's The History Boys will be on view at Wyndham's (December 21-April 14) starring Stephen Campbell Moore and Isla Blair, and The Musical of Musicals-The Musical! comes to the Kings Head Theatre (December 5-January 14) with Olivier Award-winner Paul Baker, Julie-Alanah Brighten, Susannah Fellowes, and Ian McLarnon.

One last suggestion: The Royal Variety Performance takes place at the London Coliseum December 4 with the Prince of Wales in attendance and the Duchess of Cornwall walking a few steps behind him. Numbers from The Sound of Music, Avenue Q, Spamalot and Wicked will entertain the crowds, along with appearances by Rod Stewart, Barry Manilow, and boy-band Take That. Tickets may be scarce as seconds for Oliver Twist, and they'll go for a princely sum. But somehow that seems in the cards for the occasion.