Sheffield Lyceum pantomime has some competition from Arena show with Matt Baker - but he's no match for Dame Damian Williams and Benidorm star Janine Duvitkski

What is billed as ‘the biggest panto in the world’ is coming to Sheffield for one night in December but I doubt that Lyceum Dame Damian Williams is shaking in his massive DM boots, especially as he is joined on stage by Benidorm star Janine Duvitski.

Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 9:58 am

Damian is always a major draw for fans of the Lyceum pantomime before the rest of the cast are announced and he is more than a match for The One Show’s Matt Baker or even the formidable TV quiz show Chaser Jenny Ryan, who star in The Wizard of Oz arena tour.

Janine Duvitski, who is playing the Fairy in Sleeping Beauty at the Lyceum, is best known as the memorable Jacqueline Stewart in Benidorm. She should have audiences rolling with laughter in the aisles, alongside Damian and comic Ben Thornton, who appeared in 2019 Lyceum panto Cinderella.

Coronation Street star Catherine Tyldesley has now pulled out of the show for personal reasons.

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Kelly Balaki as Dorothy, Jordan Conway as Scarecrow, Charlie Quirke as Tinman and Joe Speare as Lion in The Wizard of Oz

I’ve met Damian many times over the years and he is always great fun, ever ready with a quip, and also a serious panto nerd who loves everything about the theatre tradition.

Last year, he starred online in Damian’s Pop-Up Panto! when the Lyceum was forced to close during the pandemic but his magic works best live, having fun with the audience and cast.

Sleeping Beauty is bigger and bolder than ever, say the producers.

Former TV presenter and quiz show host Paul Hendy of Evolution Productions directs the show, which will be the company’s 14th working with Sheffield Theatres.

Matt Baker stars in the title role in The Wizard of Oz, which is touring to Sheffield Arena in December

They say Sleeping Beauty will feature lavish sets, hilarious jokes and everyone’s favourite ghost bench gag.

Sleeping Beauty runs from December 3 to January 3. Tickets are on sale now at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk.

The Wizard of Oz comes to Sheffield’s Utilita Arena on Friday, December 10.

Tickets are on sale from www.wizardofozuk.com

Janine Duvitski as Fairy Moonbeam in Sheffield Lyceum pantomime Sleeping Beauty

The production will be performed on a huge stage – the equivalent of four London Palladiums – plus two mobile stages that will travel around the arena as the Yellow Brick Road unfolds.

Matt Baker said: “This Christmas I'm swapping the green fields of Our Farm in the Dales for the Emerald City!

“I'll be an acrobatic, laser-wielding wizard and I might even bring the Children in Need Rickshaw along for the ride. It's a show packed with spectacular entertainment and fun with a brilliant script and cast to boot.

"I can't wait for my festive tour on the Yellow Brick Road!”

Damian Williams, Catherine Tyldesley and Ben Thornton co-star in this year's Lyceum pantomime, Sleeping Beauty

Jenny Ryan added: “The spectacular size of the show is breathtaking. There are giant video screens with animated computer graphic backgrounds and an ice-covered Emerald City skating scene that is magical.

“With a 10-metre tall roof, there is plenty of flying with cirque stars as the crows and the witch actually flies on a broomstick around the arena. What’s also fun is that I am known as one of telly’s top TV quizzers, yet I have to contend with The Scarecrow, a man with no brains at all.”

Many Sheffielders wouldn’t dream of missing the Manor Operatic pantomime at Sheffield City Hall. One of the city’s most ambitious and impressive amdram groups will be excited to return after their enforced break with Snow White, ‘the fairest panto in the land’, from December 27 to January 9. Tickets: www.manoroperatic.com

Theatre company Mischief, the creators of popular stage comedy The Play That Goes Wrong and BBC One's The Goes Wrong Show, return to the Lyceum next week with their new show, created in collaboration with magic legends Penn & Teller.

In Magic Goes Wrong, a hapless gang of magicians stage an evening of grand illusion to raise cash for charity. But as the magic turns to mayhem, accidents spiral out of control and so does their fundraising target.

Damian Williams, Catherine Tyldesley and Ben Thornton co-star in this year's Lyceum pantomime, Sleeping Beauty

Featuring Mischief’s trademark daredevil stunts and jaw-dropping feats involving split-second timing and comedy fun, Magic Goes Wrong comes to the Lyceum direct from the West End. Tickets from www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk, call 0114 249 6000 or visit the Crucible box office.

Over at the Crucible Studio, Love n Stuff is a comedy about love, marriage and the family you choose.

Bindi and Mansoor have been happily married for years and have built a great life for themselves in the UK.

But something’s not right; Mansoor’s decided to move back to India and is waiting in the departure lounge.

Bindi’s hatched a plan to get him to stay and half the neighbourhood are involved.

Two actors play more than 15 characters including a street-smart teenager, a hippy and a Scottish policewoman. Box office details as above.