CBeebies Pantos

1 Conversation

CBeebies is the most-watched children's television channel in Britain. Since its launch in 2002, CBeebies has been the BBC's channel aimed at children aged 6 and under. As part of the BBC's motto to inform, educate and entertain the channel seeks to inspire children, aspiring to give them a lifelong love of art and the arts, science, classical music, cooking, gardening and ballet. Unlike other children's channels that broadcast cartoon after cartoon with constant commercials, CBeebies has no adverts and uses presenters both for the channel as a whole as well as many of their programmes. These presenters have become much-loved figures among the nation's parents and children, who often consider them part of the family1.

Since 2009 the channel has annually broadcast a pantomime starring many of these presenters as the highlight of their Christmas celebration. These pantomimes are regularly the channel's most-watched programmes of the year. Over 200,000 people have applied each year for tickets for the shows, although the cast sadly only give one or two performances each year.

As with all good pantomimes, there are songs and dances, men (particularly Justin Fletcher) dress as women and women dress as men, someone ends up with a custard pie in their face and the audience is encouraged to shout such popular phrases as He's behind you! and Oh no it isn't!

Regular Cast

The presenters below have appeared in many of the CBeebies pantomimes. These presenters are listed under the names by which children and parents know them.

CBeebies Presenters

Alex Winters was a CBeebies presenter between 2009-20152 while Cat Sandion has been a presenter on CBeebies since 2013.

The tallest ever CBeebies presenter3, Andy Day has presented CBeebies since 2007. He has also starred in Andy's Wild Adventures (2012), Andy's Dinosaur Adventures (2014) and Andy's Prehistoric Adventures (2016), the last two both using footage from Walking With Dinosaurs, Dinosaur Planet and Walking with Beasts.

Cerrie Burnell has presented programmes aimed at the youngest children since 2009, much of that time with Alex. Though the fact that she was born with a right arm that ends just below the elbow has attracted excessive focus, children respond well to her expressive face and welcoming eyes and smile. She enjoys writing children's books.

Called Sid, Sidney Sloane was a regular presenter from 2002-2013 and also appeared on Let's Play (2014) with Rebecca. He also presented CBeebies in South Africa. Welsh CBeebies presenter Rebecca Keatley has presented CBeebies since 2014 and has also appeared on Let's Play (2014+) .

Show Me Show Me Presenters

A BBC children's presenter since 1992, when he was the last presenter on the original CBBC Broom Cupboard, Chris Jarvis was one of the very first presenters on CBeebies in 2002. Since 2009 he has presented Show Me, Show Me with Pui.

Pui4 Fan Lee began her children's television career by playing and voicing Po in Teletubbies (1997). In 2002 she became one of CBeebies' first presenters. Since 2009 she has co-presented Show Me Show Me with Chris. She has also written episodes of Old Jack's Boat. Being British of Hong Kong descent, Pui helped launch the channel in Asia.

Swashbuckle

A band of naughty pirates who star in game show Swashbuckle (2013+), Cook, Line and Captain Sinker, played by Joseph Elliot, Richard David-Caine5 and Ella Kenion respectively, stole Gem's jewels, Gem being played by Gemma Hunt. The only way that Gem can get her jewels back is with the help of children winning various games.

Other Programme Presenters

Katy Ashworth has presented I Can Cook, a programme in which young children are encouraged to cook healthy food, since 2009. She also regularly presents CBeebies itself.

Phil Gallagher will forever be called 'Mister Maker', having played Mister Maker since 2007 on art programme Mister Maker, although he has also had a recurring part on Grandpa in my Pocket (2009-2015) as Mr Liker Biker.

Played by Ben Faulks, Mister Bloom stars in Mr Bloom's Nursery, a programme intended to inspire children to love gardening. He also regularly hosts CBeebies' annual ballet broadcast at Easter.

Played by Katrina Bryan, Nina appears in Nina and the Neurons (2007+), a programme dedicated to encourage children to conduct experiments that enable them to explore the world around them with their senses. Series have been dedicated to such themes as going eco, biology, engineering and sport.

Steven Kynman is better known as Robert the Robot, first appearing on Justin's House (2011+). He has also provided voices for such programmes as Thomas and Friends and Bob the Builder as well as playing Shakespeare in CBeebies' adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream (2016). He was also a puppeteer on The Muppets' Treasure Island (1996).

Justin 'Mr Tumble' Fletcher OBE is best known for young children's programme Something Special6 (2003+), Gigglebiz7 (2009+) and numerous programmes on CBeebies, appearing as himself in Tikabilla (2002-7), Justin's House (2011+) as well as the CBeebies proms and pantos, he also has been a CBeebies presenter. He was the voice of Doodles and Jake in The Tweenies (1999-2003) and is the voice of Shaun and Timmy in Shaun the Sheep (2007+) including for the 2015 film and spin-off Timmy Time (2009-2012).

Jack and Jill (2009)

PlotThe royal bananas have been stolen! While Jack and Jill go up the hill where they discover a wishing well, naughty Jingle Jangle Jester puts a banana skin down, causing Jack to slip, breaking the crown he wished for, with Jill tumbling after. With the two unconscious, Jingle Jangle frames them for the banana burglary, leading to their arrest.
Length29 minutes
InspirationThe popular nursery rhyme, dating from at least 1765
CharactersIn Order of Appearance:
  • Narrator (Chris Evans)
  • Fairy (Katy)
  • Jingle Jangle Jester (Andy)
  • Queen Tutti Frutti (Justin)
  • King Willy (Sid)
  • Jack (Alex)
  • Jill (Cerrie)
  • Mister Maker (Himself)
  • PC Plum (Andrew Agnew)
  • PC Pui (Pui)
  • Royal Scientist (Nina)
  • Kerwhizzitor (Jacob Scipio)
  • Chris (Himself)

This, CBeebies' first panto was proposed and written by Chris Jarvis, who explained,

I've adapted and written lots of pantos for theatres and television but rarely for both, so I was delighted to write this one which tells the story of Jack and Jill's doomed journey up the hill – with hilarious consequences. Pantomimes appeal to children from two to 102 because they are funny, tell a good story and involve the audience in the most unique way. I don't think the children of today are any more or less sophisticated than yesterday and still laugh at the same jokes, routines and catchphrases that have been developed for decades. If anything, our appetite for panto has increased and, year on year, more people are going to see them.

Although simple when compared to CBeebies' later pantomimes, this was where it all began. Sadly it has not been broadcast since 2011.

British radio and television presenter Chris Evans is famous for presenting The Big Breakfast 1992-1994, presenting popular shows on BBC Radio 1 and later replacing the incomparable Terry Wogan on Radio 2 and later failed to find favour when hosting the 2016 series of television car programme Top Gear. PC Plum was a character from Balamory (2002-2005) played by Andrew Agnew. Jacob Scipio had played live-action host Kerwhizzitor in Kerwhizz (2008-11), a predominantly CGI quiz and racing programme.

Aladdin (2010)

PlotAladdin is in love with Princess Jasmine. He is promised enough wealth to marry her by wicked sorcerer Abanazer, who is secretly manipulating Aladdin in order to get a magic lamp that contains a wish-granting genie.
Length29 minutes
SettingCBeebies Old Town
InspirationIncluded in Les Mille et Une Nuits, aka Arabian Nights, when translated into French by Antoine Galland in 1710
FilmedBBC Television Centre
CharactersIn Order of Appearance
  • Nana Knickerbocker Twanky, Aladdin's mother (Justin)
  • Aladdin, the hero in love with the princess (Katy)
  • Wishy Washy, Aladdin's brother (Mister Maker)
  • PC Ping & PC Pong (Alex & Nisha)
  • Police Alpacas (Nuzzle & Scratch)
  • Emperor & Empress Show Me Show Me (Chris & Pui)
  • Princess Jasmine (Cerrie)
  • Jasmine's handmaiden (Nina)
  • Abanazer, evil sorcerer (Andy)
  • Spirit of the Ring (Sid)
  • Genie of the Lamp (Kerwhizzitor)

After the first pantomime proved successful, a second was commissioned on a grander scale. This would feature three CBeebies people who would not return. Nisha Anil presented Same Smile (2010), a programme that showed how though people have different hobbies, interests and beliefs, we all smile the same. Alpaca puppets Nuzzle & Scratch, played by Neil Sterenberg and Dave Chapman, had appeared in Nuzzle & Scratch and Hoof and Safety in 2008-10.

Strictly Cinderella (2011)

PlotCinderella loves dancing, and particularly the programme Strictly CBeebies. Her father, Baron Hardup, cannot afford a television so he marries Baroness Bossynova, who has two ugly daughters, Tumbleina and Makerana. Prince Charming, though, is the worst dancer Artem has ever seen. He says it is because he has never found the perfect dance partner. Will Cinderella go to the ball and will Prince Charming's dancing skills get at least a 7 from Len?
Length29 minutes
SettingHardup Hall and Palace Ballroom
InspirationThe French fairy tale popularised by Charles Perrault, 1697 and television series Strictly Come Dancing (2004-present)
CharactersIn Order of Appearance:
  • Strictly CBeebies Hosts (Cerrie and Andy)
  • Prince Charming (Alex)
  • Dandini (Sid)
  • Strictly CBeebies Choreographer (Artem Chigvintsev)
  • Cinderella (Nina)
  • Baron Hardup (Chris)
  • Buttons (Mr Bloom)
  • Baroness Bossynova (Pui)
  • Makerana (Mister Maker)
  • Tumbleina (Justin)
  • Cook (Katy)
  • Strictly CBeebies Judges (Craig Revel Horwood, Alesha Dixon, Bruno Tonioli & Len Goodman)

The channel's most-watched programme to date, Strictly Cinderella incorporated many figures from popular dancing programme Strictly Come Dancing. Half the show, the Palace Ballroom scenes, were filmed on the Strictly Come Dancing BBC Television Centre set while the scenes set at Hardup Hall, Cinderella's home, utilised the Justin's House set.

Jack and the Beanstalk (2012)

Plot CBeebiesland is plagued by a crime wave; someone is stealing everything. King Justin promises his daughter's hand in marriage to the one to find the culprit. Meanwhile, the Trott family are so poor they have to sell their beloved cow, Daisy. Jack, though, is conned and, thinking he is getting gold, is instead given beans. These turn into a magic beanstalk that lead to the land of a giant.
Length45 minutes
InspirationTraditional tale dating to at least 1734.
SettingCBeebiesland
CharactersIn Order of Appearance
  • Narrator (Bernard Cribbins)
  • King Justin (Justin)
  • Princess Nina, King Justin's daughter (Nina)
  • Robert the Robot, King Justin's butler (Himself)
  • Royal Harpist (Rebecca)
  • Treetops, magical being (Pui)
  • Dame Tilly Tinkiwinki Tonkiwonki Tikabilla Trott (Chris)
  • Jill, Jack's sister (Cerrie)
  • Jack, brave hero (Sid)
  • Fairdeal Fred (Alex)
  • Mr Bloom (Himself)
  • Tree Fu Tom (on-screen animated character voiced by Sophie Aldred)
  • Giant's Cook (Katy)
  • Mister Maker (Himself)
  • Giant (Andy)
  • Dr Ranj (Dr Ranj Singh)
FilmedPalace Theatre, Manchester

This panto perhaps has the largest cast of CBeebies characters. The Narrator was Bernard Cribbins, singer and actor famous for films like The Railway Children (1970), The Wombles (1973-5), Jackanory (1965-1996). He also starred in Doctor Who in 2007-10, having previously appeared in the 1966 film Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 AD. He was about to appear on CBeebies as Old Jack in Old Jack's Boat (2013) and his characters dog, Salty, also appeared. Dr Ranj Singh also appears. An actual doctor, he frequently appears on television discussing medical matters and had a show on CBeebies entitled Get Well Soon (2012).

Sophie Aldred voiced the CGI character Tree Fu Tom. She is most famous for playing Ace in Doctor Who in 1987-1989. Tree Fu Tom (2012-16) was developed with the Dyspraxia Foundation with the aim of promoting exercise in general and more specifically movement in children with developmental co-ordination disorder. Children are encouraged to wave their hands and legs and jump up and down, repeating movements based on those used by occupational therapists to help child development.

Andy plays the giant, performing on large stilts throughout.

CBeebies Christmas Carol (2013)

PlotEbenezer Scrooge is a very mean, nasty man who loves gold more than Christmas. He is visited by three spirits who seek to make him change his ways.
Length40 minutes
SettingVictorian London
InspirationA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
CharactersIn Order of Appearance:
  • Narrator & Housemaid (Cat)
  • Ebenezer Scrooge (Andy)
  • Bob Cratchit (Chris)
  • Scrooge's Employees (Gem & Alex)
  • Fred (Mister Bloom)
  • Magical Sprite (Tree Fu Tom)
  • Ghost of Christmas Past (Derek Griffiths)
  • Art Teacher (Mister Maker)
  • Pupils (Cerrie, Cook & Line)
  • Mr Fezziwig (Pui)
  • Mrs Fezziwig (Justin)
  • Party Guests (Iain Lauchlan & Fingermouse, Dave Benson-Phillips, Baroness Floella Benjamin & Humpty)
  • Ghost of Christmas Present (Nina)
  • Bess Cratchit (Rebecca)
  • Ghost of Christmas Future (Robert)
LocationThe Crucible, Sheffield

One of the best Christmas pantos. One particularly moving scene for the parents in the audience is the party that takes place in Scrooge's past, as this contains many presenters and actors who appeared on BBC children's programme Play School when they were young. Derek Griffiths who plays the Ghost of Christmas Past was in Play School (1964-1988) and Play Away (1971-1984) and was the voice of Super Ted (1983-1989). Dave Benson Phillips had hosted Playbus and Playdays (1988-1997) and Get Your Own Back (1991-2004). Another Play School host Iain Lauchlan had appeared in Fingerbobs (1972) and spin-off Fingermouse (1975), with Fingermouse accompanying him. Baroness Floella Benjamin, along with Play School's Humpty, were the guests of honour. Benjamin has continued to do voice work for various programmes including Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies (2007), Chuggington (2010-14) and played regular character Professor Rivers in The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007-11).

Peter Pan (2014)

PlotWendy and her two brothers are taken to Neverland by Peter Pan, a flying boy who never grew old. Peter believes Wendy can be mother to him and the Lost Boys and Girls, but Captain Hook and his band of pirates have other ideas.
Length40 minutes
SettingNeverland
InspirationJM Barrie's Peter Pan
CharactersIn Order of Appearance
  • Wendy (Nina)
  • Michael (Chris)
  • John (Pui)
  • Mrs Darling (Katy)
  • Mr Darling (Justin)
  • Peter Pan (Mister Bloom)
  • Tinkerbell (Cat)
  • Captain Hook (Andy)
  • Mr Smee (Robert)
  • Pirates (Cook, Line & Captain Sinker)
  • Lost Boys & Girls (Alex, Sid, Cerrie, Rebecca, Mister Maker & Gem)
LocationThe Lowry, Salford

Like most modern adaptations this excludes Tiger Lilly and the Indians, but nevertheless is an enjoyable version of the classic.

Alice in Wonderland (2015)

PlotYoung Alice doesn't have an imagination. She follows a white robot, sorry, rabbit, to Wonderland in order to find her imagination. Only those with an imagination are allowed to attend the Queen of Heart's party, which this year features croquet.
Length40 minutes
SettingRiverbank and Wonderland
InspirationAlice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll
CharactersIn Order of Appearance
  • Alice (Cat)
  • Alice's Father (Alex)
  • Alice's Mother (Nina)
  • Alice's Sister (Rebecca)
  • White Rabbit (Robert)
  • Caterpillar (Mister Bloom)
  • Duchess (Captain Sinker)
  • Baby (Line)
  • Cook (Cook)
  • Cheshire Cat (Mister Maker)
  • Mad Hatter (Andy)
  • March Hare (Chris)
  • Dormouse (Pui)
  • Queen of Hearts (Justin)
  • Knave of Hearts (Gem)
LocationMillennium Centre, Cardiff

A highly effective panto that cleverly used giant screens built into the set to give the appearance that Alice was changing size. Though the story had also been heavily tweaked to emphasise the importance of using an imagination, this perhaps gave the story a sense of overall meaning missing from the episodic novel.

The Nutcracker (2016)

PlotChildren Clara and Fred refuse to play together before Christmas. Their uncle gives them both a special present, a nutcracker for Clara and a Queen Mouse on wheels for Fred. That night the toys disappear and Clara and Fred, aided by Uncle Drosselmeyer's magic follow them to the Land of Sweets. This land is ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy and holds an annual Christmas dance contest between toys and mice, however this always ends in disaster. Unless the toys and mice can dance together nicely their favourite tradition will never take place again. Can Clara and Fred think of a way to save the day?
Length45 minutes
SettingA house at Christmas and the Land of Sweets
InspirationPyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet (1892) based on ETA Hoffmann's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816)
CharactersIn Order of Appearance:
  • Narrators (Justin & Cerrie)
  • Clara (Cat)
  • Fred (Mr Bloom)
  • Parents (Chris & Pui)
  • Uncle Drosselmeyer (Andy)
  • Jack-in-the-Box (Cook)
  • Wind-Up Monkey (Line)
  • Sugar Plum Fairy (Nina)
  • Christmas Cracker (Robert)
  • Nutcracker (Ryan Harston)
  • Mouse (Rebecca)
  • Queen Mouse (Laura Jones)
LocationThe Crucible, Sheffield

This is the story that strays furthest from the traditional panto formula. Despite the background music, it is not a ballet, although the dancer playing Queen Rat is very graceful in her wheelchair, even though CBeebies does annually adapt a ballet around Easter. Despite this it remains popular and easily able to capture attention of young viewers.

1Although a fair proportion of conversations on websites like Netmums and Mumsnet are dedicated to how for a number of parents, especially single ones, this affection has turned into desire. Justin, Mister Maker and Mister Bloom especially have been considered sex symbols.2He left in order to form Gung-Ho!, pursuing his dream of bringing inflatable obstacle courses similar to It's a Knockout and Ninja Warrior to the world.3He is 6-foot 4.4Pronounced to rhyme with 'Boy'.5Richard David-Caine joined CBBC's Horrible Histories team from series 7.6In which he plays Justin, Mr Tumble, Granddad Tumble, Lord Tumble, Cliff Tumble, Cool Tumble, Baby Tumble, Fisherman Tumble, Aunt Polly, Aunt Suki and Penny Farthing.7Playing characters including, but certainly not limited to, Captain Adorable, Anna Conda, Ann Teak, Arthur Sleep, Major Boogie, one of the Berrito Brothers, Dina Lady, DIY Dan, Doctor Doctor, Farmer Dung, Gail Force, Humphrey, Keith Fitt, King Flannel, Lost Pirate, Milkshake Jake, Nana Knickerbocker, Professor Muddles, Rapids Johnson, Simon Pieman, Will Singalot etc.

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