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A brief history of Pantomime at The City Varieties in Leeds

by What's On

This year Families will be wowed by a breath-taking production at the City Varieties Music Hall in Leeds. Writer Peter Rowe presents an all-new production of “Red Riding Hood: The Rock’n’Roll Panto” featuring hit songs from the likes of Metallica and Chris de Burgh!

The Panto mixes traditional elements of audience participation and corny gags with a jukebox full of classic rock anthems and chart-toppers.

Everything is performed live on stage by the ultra-talented cast of actor-musicians.

Included in the line-up is Kenny Davies – always “playing the fool”!

Kenny Davies performing at City Varieties

Kenny Davies performing at The City Varieties in Leeds


Pantomimes at City Varieties date back at least to the early 1940s and one famous tale exists of a woman giving birth during a performance of Babes in the Wood in 1941.

Legend has it that the child was gifted free admission to the Varieties for Life.

Towards the end of the 1940s, pantomimes fell from favour and it was not until 1968 that they made a return with variety stars such as The Patton Brothers, Leeds’ own Wendy King and the hugely popular clown Charlie Cairoli.

Productions of Cinderella during this period were famed for a coach pulled on stage by real (but very small!) horses and the poster for Snow White boasted “real dwarves”.

In the early 1980s, a partnership with writer-director Robin Davies (Catweazle, Shakespeare in Love), created hugely successful shows, which ran for over 20 years and began the Leeds tradition of an anarchic “rock fight” with sponges! After Jack & the Beanstalk completed its run in January 2009, the venue closed its doors for a major restoration.

When City Varieties re-opened in 2011 they hosted Aladdin – the first of the Rock’n’Roll Pantos – a very different format using a talented troupe of actor-musicians who performed classic hit songs live on stage.

The “rock fight” was also given a 21st Century make-over to become a “boulder battle” with giant inflatable bouncing balls creating bedlam around the auditorium.

Over the past few years, Cinderella, Jack & the Beanstalk, Dick Whittington, Robin Hood and Sleeping Beauty have all been given the Rock’n’Roll Panto treatment with increasing success and a whole new Leeds tradition has been born.

Show runs form Fri 29 Nov 2019 to Sun 12 Jan 2020

More info and booking here

Win a family ticket to Red Riding Hood - The Rock'n'Roll Panto

Smalltalk have a family ticket for this fantastic show to give away to one of our lucky readers.

Winner will be drawn from a hat in .......









City Varieties Music Hall, Swan Street, Leeds LS1 6LW

City Varieties Music Hall


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