Harrogate's panto is back and it's got a hard act to follow - last year's was the largest grossing show in Harrogate Theatre's history!
But the team behind the new production of Beauty and the Beast, which launches in under a fortnight's time, as confident they keep the success story going for this hugely popular fixture in Harrogate's festive calendar.
It helps, of course, when local panto legend Tim Stedman is in the cast for the 18th year running and that much of the dancing talent is provided by Harrogate schoolchildren.
Harrogate Theatre's associate director Phil Lowe said: "Last year's panto was a record breaker so it was hard at first to know how we follow that but we will certainly do our very best.
"We can't wait to show audiences what's up our sleeves for this year. Here's to another great and memorable festive season."
Running at Harrogate Theatre from Wednesday, December 6 to and January 21, Phil is co-writer as well as director once again with the theatre's chief executive David Bown.
The long-running partnership has been phenomentally successful over the last decade.
Back in the mid-Noughties Harrogate Theatre panto would sell around 24,000 tickets .
Now it's nearly 10,000 up on that and rising.
Renowned for their sense of invention and attention to detail, it's Lowe's 11th year as panto director and his ninth year as co-writer with Bown.
The duo have been credited with creating a truly family-friendly event which spurns other pantos' focus on celebrities and adult humour.
Beauty and the Beast promises to take audiences on a magical trip to France where the plot will follow theenchanting Belle and the troubled Beast – a prince who has been placed under and evil spell for a hundred years.
Phil said the show would be packed with much-loved characters, with jokes, magic, music and sparkle. not to forget some incredible special effects - all the ingredients which makes Harrogate’s own pantomime a festive family favourite.
He said: "As ever it’s about fun for all the family and absolutely everyone has a great time from age three to 103.
"We've got a first class cast again this year – some new faces and some familiar ones.
"We are delighted to once again welcome back audience favourite Tim Stedman as Muddles for his incredible 18th pantomime in Harrogate.
"What would the Harrogate pantomime be without Mr Stedman?"
Despite Tim's enduring popularity, it will be be by no means a case of a one-man show for Beauty and the Beast.
The superb calibre cast for this year includes Maisie Bawden, playing the role of Belle and making her debut at Harrogate Theatre.
Maisie has recently finished performing in 35MM at The Other Palace and in The Tempest as Adriana at Stratford Gatehouse Theatre.
Talented Tom Bainbridge will play The Beast, having recently finished the storming UK tour of Billy Elliot The Musical.
The rather extravagant Dame, Pam au Chocolat will be expertly played by Phil Stewart – another Harrogate pantomime regular.
Harrogate Theatre panto stalwart Katy Dean, who will play baddie Mona Lisa, says she can't wait for the launch night.
She said: “It’s such a great job to have. Seeing the look on the children’s faces when they are watching the show is very fulfilling.”
With shows often taking place twice a day for nearly two months, performing does involved its aches and strains.
Katy said: “In the run up to Christmas we do a two week stint with two shows a day. By the time Christmas Day comes you’re exhausted.
"I once fell asleep at the dinner table at my brother’s on Christmas Day!”
Key behind-the-scenes figures for Beauty and the Beast will include Sophie Zealand as choreographer and Richard Foxton set and costume designer.
Once again this year's dancers come from a range of local dance and secondary schools, with seven of the 12 dancersbeing students at St Aiden's CE High School.
Tickets are are going fast already from the Harrogate Theatre box office.