THIS year’s Christmas panto at the Bolton Albert Halls has been cancelled.

Theatre bosses say they have made the “difficult decision” not to go ahead with Beauty and the Beast this winter because of the coronavirus pandemic ­— but added that ‘the show must go on’ with a magical pantomime taking to the stage for Christmas 2021.

Bolton Albert Halls is due to reopen its doors next year, with the theatre lining up a number of shows to welcome people back ­— including a period drama based on a best-selling book and a chance to see Sir Michael Parkinson.

Cllr Hilary Fairclough, Bolton Council’s executive cabinet member with responsibility for the Albert Halls, said the health and wellbeing of audiences, cast and crew has to come first.

She said: “This has been a difficult decision, but given the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 and the need to prioritise everyone’s health and safety, it’s just not possible for the pantomime to go ahead.

“Of course, we understand it’s a Christmas highlight and families will be disappointed. We would want to deliver a production to the high standard our customers have come to expect, and we feel we would be doing a disservice to our audiences to press ahead this year.

“This seems like the most sensible option, but rest assured a pantomime will be back and we already have a programme of shows we are looking forward to next year.”

Anyone who has booked tickets for Beauty and the Beast will be contacted by Quay Tickets.

Helen Wright, from Polka Dot Pantomimes, said: “We believe that you need to experience a pantomime in a packed auditorium with a large audience full of families and friends who can interact with the performers on stage, as well as a company who are able to work in close proximity to one another in the all-singing, all-dancing style that our pantos have become synonymous with - that is the beauty and tradition of pantomime.

“If we are unable to achieve that this year then we would not be doing the art form justice and would be short-changing our audiences. Therefore, postponing Beauty and the Beast until next year feels like the most sensible, fair and safe option.”

A provisional programme of shows has been booked in for 2021. Easter pantomime ‘Peter Pan’ will be on April 15 and 16, starring Coronation Street and Dancing on Ice star Steven Arnold as Captain Hook.

Other highlights include ‘By The Waters Of Liverpool’ at the venue from April 1 to 3. Adapted from Helen Forrester’s million-selling book, the production is a period drama set in the 1930s.

‘An Evening with Sir Michael Parkinson’ is set for April 11 - celebrating the life and career of a man who has interviewed more than 2000 of the most important cultural figures of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Theatre bosses say that The Albert Halls will be undertaking risk assessments and putting in place necessary safety measures to enable productions to go ahead.