Leading West End producer Michael Harrison is to be awarded Honorary Freedom of the City of Newcastle upon Tyne in recognition of his services to Newcastle Theatre Royal and its record-breaking pantomime.
Michael, a pre-eminent West End theatre producer behind several major global successes including The Bodyguard, travels back to his home town of Newcastle every year to produce the Theatre Royal’s legendary annual panto and has opened several major touring shows at the venue, including Chess and Annie.
The title of ‘Honorary Freeman’ is purely honorary (and does not confer the privileges of Hereditary Freemen) but still represents the highest honour the Council can bestow. Following a formal installation ceremony on 3 May, Michael’s name will be engraved on the Banqueting Hall wall at the Civic Centre alongside the names of other esteemed recipients of the honour since 1886.
Michael said: “To be made a Freeman of my home city is a great honour to me – no matter where I travel Newcastle will always have a great place in my heart, and will always be ‘home’. I have had a relationship with the Theatre Royal since being a boy and it is a very special Theatre and a particular highlight on the touring and producing calendar.”
Philip Bernays, chief executive of Newcastle Theatre Royal, who nominated Michael for the honour with Theatre Royal Trust Chairman Bill Midgley (OBE), said: “We are very proud of Michael in so many ways. He’s a leading light in his field and an inspiration to so many. His pantomimes are frankly the best in the world, and it is a great honour to have him at the helm of ours. This new accolade is well deserved.”
Four Honorary Freedom awards will be conferred in total this year, the other recipients being The Little Sisters of the Poor, Freddy Shepherd and Bruce Shepherd OBE. The ceremony will be held in the Council Chambers at the Civic Centre and recipients will be invited to process with the Lord Mayor’s party before signing the Register of Honorary Freemen.
In his role as Managing Director of Qdos Pantomimes Michael has produced over 100 pantomimes for the company and will oversee a staggering 35 pantos this Christmas, three of which he will personally direct (including Newcastle Theatre Royal’s record breaking Peter Pan). But before then he will be bringing massive West End hits Funny Girl (starring Sheridan Smith, 16-20 May), Sunset Boulevard (9-14 October) and Beautiful (The Carol King musical, 14-18 Nov) to the Theatre Royal. In August he will also be premiering his latest show here, a comedy musical collaboration with Mel Brooks – Young Frankenstein (26 Aug – 9 Sep) immediately prior to a West End run.
This year’s high-flying Theatre Royal panto Peter Pan (28 Nov ‘17 – 21 Jan ‘18) will be the thirteenth consecutive pantomime Michael has created for Newcastle Theatre Royal, and has already sold a record 60,000 tickets. Of the twelve pantos he has created for the Theatre starring now local legends Danny Adams and Clive Webb, last year’s Cinderella hit the millionth ticket mark.
Peter Pan – The High Flying Pantomime Adventure appears at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Tuesday 28 November 2017 – Sunday 21 January 2018 (Evenings: 7pm and 5pm, Matinees: 2pm and 1pm). Tickets are from £13.00 and can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 or select your own seat and book online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk For information on the other shows Michael is bringing to the Theatre Royal please also visit the Theatre’s website.