'Mr Harrogate' swaps mayor's outfit for panto costume

Panto star - Former Harrogate mayor Michael Newby with director and writer (and his partner) Clive Kirkham.
Panto star - Former Harrogate mayor Michael Newby with director and writer (and his partner) Clive Kirkham.
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A man sometimes called 'Mr Harrogate' is to return to the stage for the first time since he was the town's mayor.

Swapping his strait-laced regalia for an outrageous frock, Michael Newby will take the role of an ugly step sister next month in a classic production of the pantomime Cinderella.

Michael Newby nursing a broken leg as the dame in a Pannal Players' panto in 2002.

Michael Newby nursing a broken leg as the dame in a Pannal Players' panto in 2002.

Before becoming mayor, the former Liberal Democrat councillor was a regular with Pannal Players for more than ten years.

Such is his love of theatre, he even appeared in panto once with his leg in plaster after breaking his leg.

Now he's back at Pannal Memorial Hall for the first time since he held the town's highest civic office from 2013-14.

Michael said: "It was a bit of a whirlwind year. I was so busy as mayor, I had to give up my theatrical activities.

"I made sure I saw every am-dram show at Harrogate Theatre that year. But I did miss being on stage.

"The best thing is the interaction with the audience. Every night is different and every audience is different. That's why I love panto so much."

The man who does so much to promote the district's assets in his role as director of tourism group Visit Harrogate is being helped in his return to stage by his partner and fellow theatre enthusiast, Clive Kirkham.

Handily enough, Clive is the show's director, writer and choreographer!

Clive said: "I've acted with Michael before but I haven't directed him before. In fact, I haven't directed before at all.

"It's going to be a more traditional approach to panto than recently. There will be 13 main members of the cast and ten youngsters playing the fairy godmother's little helpers.

"There's going to be an enormous cast on the village's small stage. It will be a lot of fun."

During his year as mayor, Michael attended a phenomenal number of events in his chauffeur-driven Skoda Superb - more than 500 in total across the whole of the Harrogate district.

Currently serving on the board of Harrogate Theatre, he is also credited with bringing the 130-year-old role into the digital age.

Something similar is now happening with Pannal Players.

For the first time ever, audiences looking to book a ticket for Cinderella can now do so online.

Cinderella by Pannal Players runs at Pannal Memorial Hall from Wednesday, February 22 to Saturday, February 25.