John Coates, the man who masterminded Malton’s annual pantomimes for more than 30 years and who was known as ‘Mr Panto’, died on Friday (20 January), aged 73.
Mr Coates came to Malton in 1966 and joined his wife Jackie in the former Malton and Norton Amateur Operatic Society, now Malton and Norton Musical Theatre, in 1971.
He directed 24 pantos for the group between the 1970s and 2003 before giving up his active association in 2003 because of Parkinson’s disease.
Despite his illness he continued to visit and lend his experience and support to many local groups including the Musical Theatre, Ryedale Youth Theatre and Malton District Male Voice Choir, of which he was a founding member.
Mr Coates was also a guiding light for many of the Musical Theatre’s long-running stars. He helped promote celebrated Malton panto ‘dame’ Fred Bower and also nurtured many young local stage performers.
In 2009, to mark the Musical Theatre’s 60th Anniversary, Mr Coates was presented with the Fred Bower Pantomime Trophy.
As well as being a skilled musical show and panto director, Mr Coates was a fine actor and singer. He regularly played lead roles in society musical shows.
Musical Theatre chairwoman Anne Pegg said: “John will be remembered as the man who made Malton panto great. He was a legend in his own lifetime and a good person to boot.
“We will not forget him.”
Mr Coates is survived by his wife Jackie and son Robert, who are both talented musical performers.