LEGENDARY Panto Dame Berwick Kaler is set to make a sensational return to pantomime in York next Christmas - at the Grand Opera House.

Berwick will star in Dick Turpin Rides Again, the theatre has revealed.

The show will reunite him with his band of pantomime regulars, including comedy side-kick Martin Barrass, the villainous David Leonard, Yorkshire’s longest-serving Principal Girl Suzy Cooper, and favourite funny man AJ Powell, said a spokeswoman.

She said Berwick will also write and direct the production, which will be produced by Qdos Entertainment, the world’s biggest pantomime producer, and the Olivier Award winning team behind pantomimes across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and at the world famous London Palladium each Christmas.

"Dick Turpin Rides Again will feature Qdos Entertainment’s hallmark of high-quality production values and special effects, whilst staying faithful to Berwick’s renowned approach to the genre and to local York audiences," she said.

Berwick said: “Qdos Entertainment have come to the rescue of the most lauded pantomime in the country having found us a new home at the Grand Opera House in our beloved City of York.

"To make this a success we need you – the most articulate and loyal audience in the entire country. We can go forth with a management that believes we have enhanced the reputation of a local pantomime that has caught the imagination of young and old, from all walks of life.”

The news has been announced just days after Berwick, who starred in Theatre Royal pantos for 40 years before retiring last year, went on stage at the end of the final night of this year's panto, Sleeping Beauty, and gave the theatre three days to reconsider its decision to shake up next year's pantomime.

He told ardent fans he was "furious" that the Theatre Royal, who last week announced that a new creative team will be appointed for next Christmas's pantomime and that the current stars will not automatically be offered a role in future productions, could do this to them, and that they were "ruining the company's close relationship with pantomime goers.'

The Grand Opera House spokeswoman said Berwick’s critically acclaimed performance as dame had solidified his reputation as a true York institution, having delighted generations of festive theatregoers every year, winning rave reviews from critics and audiences taking him to their hearts.

"Dick Turpin Rides Again marks his first pantomime at the Grand Opera House," she said.

"Having made his York pantomime debut as Ugly Sister in Cinderella in 1977, Berwick has performed, written and directed panto in the city ever since, calling out his iconic catchphrase ‘me babbies, me bairns’ and met with adoration from local audiences at every performance.

"A star of the stage since he left his native Sunderland as a teenager, Berwick has been a mainstay in theatre ever since, appearing in London’s West End and regionally, making television appearances in iconic comedies such as The New Statesman and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and even featuring in the Hollywood blockbuster A Knight’s Tale.

In 2012 he was featured in Michael Grade’s acclaimed documentary A History of the Pantomime Dame, which was aired on BBC Four."

Qdos Entertainment’s Managing Director Michael Harrison said: “We are absolutely delighted to be embarking on an all-new pantomime partnership with our colleagues at the Ambassador Theatre Group, Grand Opera House and, of course, Berwick and the gang.

"Berwick is an undeniable master in the world of pantomime, with his own inimitable style and approach and we are delighted to be working closely with him and the cast to bring back the magic for which they are best-known.”

Qdos Entertainment Chairman, Scarborough based Nick Thomas MBE, added: “I am thrilled to welcome Berwick, a true Yorkshire theatre legend, to the Qdos Family. Qdos Entertainment has had a long association with Yorkshire, it is my home county, and with our production and wardrobe teams based in Scarborough and Beverley, forming this new relationship with Berwick and the Grand Opera House is especially exciting”.

Grand Opera House York’s Theatre Director, Rachel Crocombe-Lane, added:"Qdos brings both world-class expertise and also a Yorkshire heart, being based in Scarborough; the perfect combination together with this talented cast.

"As a venue team, Pantomime is our favourite time of year because of the friendship with the company and also the joy and devotion of our audience. We are proud of these new partnerships, excited for the future of our Pantomime and will be ready altogether to really blow your Christmas socks off!’

The spokeswoman said Dick Turpin Rides Again will play at Grand Opera House from Saturday 12 December until Sunday 10 January 2021, with tickets going on sale for ATG Theatre Card holders from Tuesday 11 February, and on sale generally from Friday 14 February.

"Berwick Kaler will be making a personal appearance at the theatre Box Office as it goes on sale at 10am on the 14 February, and will sell the first tickets to the show."