New Harrogate panto director’s delight at 'doing Phil proud' as Cinderella proves a big hit

As Harrogate Theatre warns that almost all tickets for weekend and evening performances of Cinderella before Christmas are now sold out, the panto’s new director has said how wonderful it is to help bring back some joy.

Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 1:14 pm
Harrogate Theatre panto - Joyce Branagh took over as panto boss after the death of co-creator Phil Lowe.

Despite the loss of panto co-creator Phil Lowe who passed in October, the show is proving as popular as ever after its enforced 22-month break during the pandemic.

The advice from Harrogate Theatre this week is to either get your ticket as soon as possible or be prepared to book for a date in January.

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The panto’s new director Joyce Branagh admitted stepping in at the last moment had been an emotional experience but the whole team had been determined to do Phil proud.

“Everyone was very supportive to me and helped me get up to speed,” she said.

“It was obviously a tricky time for the theatre, and the whole team were mourning the loss of Phil, but they also knew how important the pantomime was to him, so everyone has pulled together and done all they could to make it the best show we possibly could.”

Cinderella, which continues its run at Harrogate Theatre until January 16, has been boosted by the appearance of much-loved panto funnyman Tim Stedman, who appears on stage in the panto for the 21st year in the role of Buttons.

Mrs Branagh said the success of this year’s magical family panto despite all the challenges was partly a result of the small but skilful cast and partly the high quality of the script created by David Bown and Phil himself.

She said: “The actors are a lovely talented bunch, and Phil had written a great script, so with a lot of hard work we’ve created a great show which is filling the auditorium with much-needed joy.”

It was the reaction of one of the theatre’s volunteers that convinced Joyce, sister of Kenneth, that Cinderella was, indeed, a winner.

“We did an open dress rehearsal and many of the ushers who have supported the theatre for years were there. I knew we’d pulled it off when Keith, who’s been a volunteer for years, said to me ‘Phil would be proud’.”

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