Anita Harris has followed a long and glittering path to panto in York, report CHARLES HUTCHINSON.

ANITA Harris is in pantomime in York.

Now 72, the actress, singer and entertainer began performing in Las Vegas two weeks shy of her 16th birthday, starred in Carry On films, became the highest paid cabaret artiste in the world and latterly made the headlines when, struck by a financial crisis, she was evicted from her London flat in 2009.

That low point does not come under discussion in her Cinderella press day in the Grand Opera House. Instead, emerging from her dressing room in regal Baroness Hardup mode, she is a picture of radiance, elegant, immaculate, poised: a reminder of the charm school days of theatre, a showbiz star to the last twinkle. And she is in pantomime in York.

She has happy memories of the Opera House.

"It would have been for Marguerite Porter's Summer Gala ballet that I was last here with Jason Connery, The BalletBoyz and Samantha Bond," she says. "Marguerite does wonderfully, to keep ballet buoyant in the north and to bring out new talent that doesn't necessarily have to be in London."

It was a typically kind comment from Anita – who was quick throughout the press launch to praise her fellow cast members – and it also chimed with her memories of her own early performing steps.

"My parents moved from Midsomer Norton to Bournemouth when I was seven and I started to skate there and met an incredible skater called Courtney Jones, who was a four-time world champion in ice dancing and I became his training partner at 13, going up to London to train."

Las Vegas soon beckoned for the convent girl. "I was very young, it was a very long time ago and Las Vegas didn't have the ring it does now. It was just another place where entertainment happened. That was before the Rat Pack days took off," she says.

She performed as a dancer at the El Rancho Hotel.

"Across the road was Mae West at the Flamingo. I certainly caught her act, as did all the dancers. She had time for us all," says Anita. "We did three shows a night and on the 12th night, we had the night off and our chaperone would take us to Mae West, Vic Damone and Ol' Blue Eyes[Frank Sinatra] at the Desert Inn."

Did she meet Sinatra? "I did because I had a seat right at the front and the chaperone took us round to meet him. Very briefly," she says.

Through the years, many roles on stage and screen have ensued, although her biography in the press pack modestly mentions only her work since playing Grizabella in the West End production of Cats from 1986 for a two-year tenure.

Latterly, she toured with a new one-woman stage show, An Intimate Evening With Anita Harris in 2013, and appeared in a production of the Emlyn Williams play A Murder Has Been Arranged at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre in July 2013 and at Malvern Festival Theatre that August.

Now her focus is on York. "York is always a beautiful city and a very spiritual city too, and I hope the Minster does a lovely Christmas Eve service. I've obviously visited many times when I've done plays here," she says.

"But this is my first York pantomime and I'm going to enjoy being really naughty, doing my version of Michael Jackson's Bad. It's such fun being naughty and bad."

She made her pantomime debut at the Bournemouth Pavilion. "It was with Frankie Vaughan," she says, reaching deep into her memory box. "Oh jolly golly noodles. Frankie Vaughan certainly made an impression and luckily I was to get to know him when I grew up. What a beautiful gentleman."

She went on to make the role of Peter Pan her own, as a multitude of posters would testify. "It was more of an acting role than a singing pantomime role, because of the brilliance of J.M. Barrie's writing," Anita says.

"I've played Aladdin, Jack and Dick Whittington and Robinson Crusoe. I've loved playing principal boy and I'm sorry that boys are now playing that role."

And now Anita Harris is in pantomime in York, playing a baddie. Good news indeed.

Anita Harris appears in Cinderella, Grand Opera House, York, from December 12 to January 4. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at