HOWARD Ella returns for his tenth year of writing and producing Rowntree Players' rollicking romp of a York pantomime, working alongside regular co-writer and performer Andy Welch once more.

However, in a change at the helm for 2018, another Rowntree regular, Gemma McDonald, grabs hold of the directorial reins for Sleeping Beauty's run from Saturday (December 8) to December 15.

The Players promise a traditional, family-friendly pantomime but with the kind of comical meanderings away from Perrault’s original story that are de rigueur for a modern panto.

In a nutshell, Maleficent is far from happy at not being invited to Princess Aurora’s Christening, so she takes matters into her own hands with a deadly curse that necessitates a race against time to save the Princess.

"Will the Fairy Godmother break the curse? Will Dame Ophelia and Fairy Snowflake ever pass their fairy exams? Will there be the usual madness, mess and mayhem from the Rowntree Players team? There’s only one way to find out," says Howard. "You're advised to book your tickets now as our panto sells quickly!"

Many of the Players' core panto company returns, among them Graham Smith as Dame Ophelia; Daisy Ella as Princess Aurora; Hannah King, Prince Loreal; Andy Welch, King Otto; Marie-Louise Surgenor, Fairy Godmother; Geoff Walker, Fairy Godfather; Sian Davies, Rusty-Bell, and Meg Badrick, Turnip-Leaf.

After a few years' break, Julie Blackburn makes a welcome return as Queen Brunhilde and this season sees choreographer Ami Carter taking to the stage as Maleficent.

"Jess Douglas once again provides musical magic with her band and the Players' crew continue to be led by the ever-creative Paul Mantle and Lee Smith with their always increasing bag of whimsical, glittered panto necessities," says Howard.

Three shows have sold out already: Saturday, Sunday and December 15 at 2pm. Only a "last few" seats are still available for Saturday, Monday, December 12 and 15 at 7.30pm. Availability is "limited" for December 11, 13 and 14's 7.30pm shows.

"With several shows already sold out and the rest showing limited availability, the pressure is on to grab a ticket for York’s biggest community theatre panto," says Howard.

Tickets are on sale at £14 to £16 on 01904 501935 or at