The magic of Christmas at Harrogate Theatre

Tim Stedman, Harriette Hare and George Telfer are appearing in Harrogate Theatre's panto Jack and the Beanstalk.
Tim Stedman, Harriette Hare and George Telfer are appearing in Harrogate Theatre's panto Jack and the Beanstalk.

Christmas is a wonderful time for theatre and music in Harrogate.

One of the most welcome events in the seasonal calendar is the return of the world famous Brighouse and Rastrick Band, who will be joining the Harrogate Gilbert and Sullivan Society at the Royal Hall for ‘Fanfare for Christmas’.

These joint concerts have been an annual tradition since 1986 and this year two concerts take place on Saturday, December 22 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. A great way to get in the Christmas spirit.

However, I was sad to hear that for the first time in 45 years, the Harrogate G&S Society’s annual summer production will not take place at the theatre next year. The society began back in 1972 and the productions have always been of the highest quality, directed by top-notch professionals such as D’Oyly Carte Opera’s John Reed OBE and Alistair Donkin.

Unfortunately, rising costs and challenging times have adversely affected the society, whose sole aim is to promote the much-loved music of Gilbert and Sullivan. Harrogate G&S has had to take the difficult decision, at least for now, to transfer to smaller venues.

It’s not all bad news and I’m pleased to hear that the society has exciting plans for the future. A brand-new production of Iolanthe is in the pipeline with a professional director Sarah Helsby Hughes, who has worked with many major opera companies. Iolanthe will be staged at the Frazer Theatre in Knaresborough on May 9,10 and 11, 2019, taking G&S to new audiences.

Harrogate’s loss is Knaresborough’s gain, but we hope it won’t be for too long.

Did you know that Harrogate Theatre’s pantomime last year attracted over 33,000 people, sold to 92% capacity and was the highest grossing pantomime at Harrogate Theatre ever?

It’s that time of year again and Jack and the Beanstalk is on course to exceed last year’s achievements. I sat in on the dress rehearsal at the weekend and was bowled over by the look of the show. We have a new designer on board, Morgan Brind, who last year won the best set design at the National Pantomime Awards. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t retain it this year.

Every scene is truly breathtaking. I must mention Alex Stafford’s lighting design, which animates Morgan’s ideas beautifully. Also, Nick Lacey, our Musical Director of many years, as always provides a rich, sometimes sensitive and sometimes thumping soundtrack.

Lastly our production team headed up by Richard Bielby and Maurice Stewart put it all together with such precision and skill. Come and have a look and you can judge the cast, creatives and technical for yourselves. Tickets are selling fast but due to popular demand we’ve added a few more shows in January. 33,000 people beating their way to our door step is also a challenge for the front of house staff in a likewise challenging building. But the positive knock-on effect for the street and the town centre is huge.

In times when shops are closing and the identity of the high street is under threat, then I absolutely believe that the theatre has a massive part to play in the future of Harrogate’s economic buoyancy.

If you are after an alternative to panto during the festive period then look no further than our studio and the Winter Ghost Stories. Performing Saturday. December 15 and Sunday, December 16 with a new piece co-produced by the theatre and Adam Robinson rounding them of on Friday, January 18… they are all guaranteed to give you The Shivers.