There are many ways for families to celebrate Christmas in Toronto, and many families have long-standing holiday traditions. Attending a Santa Claus Parade is a popular choice, and so is taking in a Christmas pantomime.
But What is a Christmas Panto Show?
Holiday-season pantomimes are highly interactive all-ages stage shows. Based on a British tradition, Toronto pantomimes are generally loud, rambunctious musical comedies which add outlandish twists to fairy tales or other well-known children's stories. There's usually some cross-gender acting, references to current events and culture (mostly as jokes for the adults), and - in larger-budget productions - celebrity guests in the cast.
• Learn more from "What is Pantomime?" on About.com: United Kingdom Travel.
Starting in November or December and continuing into January, there are both professional companies and community theatre groups which offer annual pantos in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area:
Ross Petty Productions
This is Toronto's biggest panto which is a tradition for many families. The Ross Petty Productions pantomime is staged in the Elgin Theatre and usually runs from late November to the start of January. Ross Petty himself performs, and the rest of the cast is usually a mix of celebrity guests and established performers from Toronto's musical theatre scene.
- 2012/13 Show: Snow White (Nov. 23 - Jan. 5)
- 2011/2012 Show: The Wizard of Oz
Peel Panto Players (Brampton)www.peelplayers.com
The Peel Panto Players are a year-round community theatre group which present a pantomime every winter, usually at the end of November/early December. Their shows take place at the Lester B. Pearson Theatre in Brampton. As with all community theatres, the Peel Players rely on volunteers, so if you're interested in getting involved backstage, check the website for current opportunities.
- 2012 Show: Jack and the Beanstalk (Nov. 22-25, 29 and 30, Dec. 1)
- 2011 Show: Robinson Crusoe
Zeus Entertainment (Oakville)www.pantomime.ca
Zeus Entertainment offered their first pantomime in Oakville during the 2011 Christmas season.
- 2012 Show: Aladdin (Dec. 20-30)
- 2011 Show: Cinderella
Newmarket Stage Company
For the past few years, the Newmarket Stage Company's musical pantomime has taken place in January.
- 2013 Show: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (Jan. 16-20)
- 2012 Show: The Sleeping Beauty
Red Sandcastle Theatre & Panto Players Co-opredsandcastletheatre.com
Red Sandcastle Theatre is a year-round theatre operating in the Leslieville neighbourhood of Toronto. In 2011 they partnered with Panto Players Co-op to offer a Christmas family pantomime in December and January. They also offered a special New Year's Eve show which was adults-only.
- 2012/13 Show: The Shoemaker and the Pant-o-mimes (Dec. 26 - Jan. 6)
- 2011/12 Show: Alice in Blunderland
Other Holiday Shows For FamilliesBeyond the pantomimes, there are other family shows which usually take place every Christmas season in Toronto:
- The National Ballet of Canada's production of The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition for many families.
- In 2012 the comedy experts over at The Second City Toronto are once again offering The Miracle on Mercer Street, featuring music and puppets, as a holiday show for families.
- Every year Puppetmongers presents a holiday family show which in 2012 will be Cinderlla in Muddy York.
- Young People's Theatre generally offers a musical on their mainstage during the latter part of November and through December. In 2012, it's Cinderella (a RATical retelling).
- Mirvish usually has a family-friendly musical on during the winter months - in 2012/13 it's The Wizard of Oz.
- The Lower Ossington Theatre often has family-friendly shows on - this year Pinkalicious - The Musical, Freckleface Strawberry - The Musical, and The Amazing Mark Lewis Magic Show are all holiday options.