DIRECTOR Howard Ella and pantomime dame Barry Benson have written a new script for the Rowntree Players’ production of Dick Whittington in York.

Running from December 5 to 12 at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, the show will combine Players’ principals with “a fantastic chorus, colourful set and costumes and talented musicians, plus never-seen-before effects, surprises, huge amounts of fun and a medley of hugely popular songs”.

“Come and find out if Sarah the cook will stick to the script (no chance!),” says Caroline Heppell, the Players’ secretary and publicist. “Will Dick Whittington’s journey to find love and happiness be a smooth one? Just how ‘purrrrfect’ is Tommy the cat? Will Fairy Bowbells’ sprinkling of magical fairy dust be enough to save the day? Goodness knows what will happen!”

Barry Benson’s Sara the Cook will be joined in the Players’ cast by Marie-Louise Surgeonor as Dick Whittington; Nicola Howlett as Alice Fitzwarren; Leon Thompson, Idle Jack; Julie Harrison, Fairy Bowbells; Graham Bilton, Alderman Fizwarren; Lee Gemmell, King Rat; Sara Howlett, Tommy the Cat; and Claire Horsley and Steph Mantle, Daisy the Cow. Dan Hield is the musical director; choreography is by Claire Horsley and Nicola Howlett.

Only One Question for… Howard Ella, director and co-writer of Rowntree Players’ pantomime, Dick Whittington

What have been the key elements of putting together your production, Howard?

“Okay, I admit it! From the off I have to confess I’m a major panto fan. I suppose I would have to be to co-write and direct Dick Whittington for Rowntree Players. “But let’s look at the reasons: it’s entertaining, it’s funny, it has music and dance and – most importantly to me – it gives children their first experience of theatre both on and off the stage. “So putting on a pantomime and meeting the huge expectations people have for a cracking night out was a challenge, and one, of course, we have met.

“Barry Benson [co-writer and dame Sarah The Cook] and I sat down in March and tried hard to tell a story and ‘be funny’. Fighting to be original, yet traditional and silly, but with drama was trickier than we thought. “Then we moved to the fun part – where it all came to life. Once we had our cast, we added a team of ten dancers, 20 children, all the stage and production team and set to work lifting the show off the page and on to the stage.

“The amount of work people are prepared to put into producing amazing theatre while having a full-time job or going to school never ceases to amaze me and Dick Whittington is no exception.”

• Rowntree Players present Dick Whittington, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, from tomorrow until December 12. Performances start at 2pm tomorrow, Sunday and next Saturday; 7.30pm, tomorrow and Monday to next Saturday. Tickets: 01904 416751/623568 or at