BUDDY the elf could hit a much-loved pantomime hard in the pocket, a concerned councillor fears.

Christmas has only just happened but theatre bosses are already looking ahead to the next festive season, and for Colchester it’s set to be a two-horse race between with Elf the Musical set to take the stage at Charter Hall, ending the Mercury Theatre’s monopoly on festive fun with its pantomime.

The blockbuster musical, based on the film of the same name, is coming to the city for a 36-show run to the delight of many Christmas fans.

The move to show the musical at the council-owned venue, however, has left some wondering how it will impact Colchester Council’s long-standing relationship with the Mercury.

Gazette: Coming soon - Elf the Musical will show at Charter HallComing soon - Elf the Musical will show at Charter Hall (Image: N/A)

City centre councillor Steph Nissen has written to Michelle Burrows, the council’s leisure boss, to raise concerns over “significant upset to the Mercury staff and partners, and serious concerns about competition”.

Ms Nissen told the Gazette: “The Mercury’s panto is really well loved, well respected, and always sold out. I hope there’s sufficient demand and loyalty that people will still support the Mercury’s panto which has a really special place in our hearts.

“I appreciate the injection of cash this will bring into the council and I love Elf, it’s a great film, but we’re not getting Will Ferrell coming to Colchester.

“My ask to the people of Colchester would be to be loyal to the Mercury but if you can afford to see both, do.”

Gazette: Concerned - city centre councillor Steph NissenConcerned - city centre councillor Steph Nissen (Image: Steph Nissen)

Colchester Council said it “understands and respects” the concerns raised by Ms Nissen but that the decision to present Elf was necessary to address an “unprecedented budget gap”.

A spokesman said: “We regret that this decision may have caused upset and anger among the Mercury’s cast and staff team.

“We understand the importance of the Mercury’s pantomime to the local community, and we will continue to support this longstanding tradition.

“Our goal is to find a way forward that benefits both the council and the Mercury, while ensuring that the people of Colchester continue to have access to a diverse range of entertainment options.”

The authority added it remains a “committed supporter of the Mercury” and “welcomes the opportunity to discuss this matter further in the new year”.

The Mercury was invited to comment.