A CELEBRATION of the life of Richard Bainbridge, leading man of the York stage and beyond, will take place tomorrow at St Oswald’s Church, Sowerby, Thirsk, at 2pm.

Richard, who died at the age of 64 on July 5 after a short illness, enjoyed a long association with York Musical Theatre Company (formerly known as York Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society until 2002), as actor, director and latterly company chairman.

He worked in the management of both Harrogate Theatre and The Forum, Billingham, and in between was the instructor of drama at Thirsk School. From July 2008, he ran The Black Swan, Market Place, Thirsk, in tandem with partner Ray Dyer.

Theatre was always his first love, whether performing for York Musical Theatre Company, Stockton Stage Society or Billingham Players or directing Northallerton Musical Theatre Society shows in the past few years.

Rather than a formal tribute, here are the thoughts of those who knew Richard well.

PAUL LAIDLAW, artistic director of York Musical Theatre Company, says: “What in amazing man. I first met Richard when I played the Billingham Forum Theatre, where he was manager, and it was he who, several years later, asked me to become artistic director of York Musical Theatre Company.

“Since then, we have been involved in more than 30 shows together, where Richard’s enthusiasm, energy and humour were evident in everything he did.

"Blessed with a fine singing voice and a talented actor, Richard regularly played leading roles with the company, showing a diversity that was enviable, but even when not involved on stage he gave the same dedication and leadership, no matter which of the many jobs he had undertaken: production manager, director, supervising the ‘get-in’ – always with that cheery smile, a twinkle in his eye and a determination to get the job done.

York Press:

Richard Bainbridge in his last performance for York Musical Theatre Company as Daddy Warbucks in Annie in 2017

“As chairman of YMTC, he was second to none and worked tirelessly and enthusiastically to ensure the company played to its strengths and developed an enviable reputation for the quality of its productions.

“His contribution to the world of musical theatre, not just in York, cannot be over-estimated. A great performer, a true and loyal friend and a wonderful human being. They don’t make them like that anymore."

KATHRYN ADDISON, chair of York Musical Theatre Company, says: “Richard was a diverse performer, a charismatic personality and a genuinely nice guy. His performances with York Musical Theatre Company for more than 40 years speak for themselves with roles as diverse as Will Parker in Oklahoma! to Fredrik Egerman in A Little Night Music and his final role of Daddy Warbucks in the 2017 production of Annie.

"Each role was approached with energy and enthusiasm, even if accuracy of dialogue was sometimes interesting for those playing opposite him!

“Richard is not only remembered for his performances, but also for his skills as director and chairman, which he approached with his characteristic drive and enthusiasm. It is not only York Musical Theatre Company that will feel the loss of Richard, but the local community theatre and its audiences.

“While we mourn his passing, we remember his wonderful personality, the twinkle in his eye, and are grateful for the impact that he has had on regional theatre.”

JIM WELSMAN, former chairman of YMTC, says: “Richard was a good friend, a consummate performer and an inspiration to the many, many people he worked with.

“I was delighted when he took over as the chair at York Musical Theatre Company. He will be sadly missed by the company and is a great loss to the wider musical theatre community in York and beyond.”

York Press:

Richard Bainbridge in York Musical Theatre Company's That's Entertainment in 2012

ROBERT READMAN, actor and director of Pick Me Up Theatre, says: “I first met Richard when we appeared in Show Boat together at York Theatre Royal in 1990.

“I was asked to audition for Gaylord Ravenal but, thank the Lord, Richard got the part! It was a pleasure to be on stage with Richard for so many years thereafter. A lovely, down to earth, funny man.”

JESSA LIVERSIDGE (formerly Marshall), often leading lady to Richard’s leading man, says: “It’s difficult to accept Richard, a person so lively and funny, so full of talent, energy and drive, so inspiring and entertaining to so many people, has gone.

“He was the perfect stage partner – supportive, genuine and brimming with charisma – and I have wonderful memories of our times together on stage, his Captain von Trapp and Emile de Beque being particularly special for me.

“A very dear friend, Richard supported and encouraged myself and Mick [Liversidge] in our solo ventures, gave no-nonsense advice and made everyone laugh with his cheeky smile and wicked sense of humour. We will all miss him terribly.”

Let’s finish on a lighter note with a recollection from YMTC regular cast member ANNA MITCHELSON, who says. “Going through photographs, I remembered trying to be serious in The Scarlet Pimpernel, set in France, when a certain person decided to say rude French words in my ear the whole time to try and make me laugh. That was very Richard!”

A final thought from Charles Hutchinson, The Press theatre critic

"So many memories, so many moments of joy, so many musical highs. Great gossip too. Richard, you were all that was good about theatre, and how I enjoyed writing about those many triumphs. What pleasure you brought to so many."