The Open Air Theatre: A Chronology of Spectacular Shows

Stories From Scarborough has already introduced the history of Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre here, and discussed one of it’s productions – Carmen – in depth here. In response to requests from readers, here is a quick rundown of former productions, starting with Merrie England, the very first show to play at the theatre when it opened in 1932.
 
Merrie England 1930s
 
Above: Merrie England (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

Below: Illuminated for the opening night (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
Open Air Theatre
 
This was followed by Tom Jones in 1933 and Hiawatha in 1934.
 
Open Air Theatre
 
Above: Tom Jones, 1933 (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
Below: Hiawatha, 1934 (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
Open Air Theatre
 
Carmen was 1935’s crowd puller, while 1936 saw a return to an old favourite – Merrie England.
 
Open Air Theatre
 
Above: Merrie England, principal cast members (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
Below: Carmen’s principal cast members, 1935 (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
Carmen at the Open Air Theatre
 
In 1937 the theatre hosted The Pageant of Faust.
 
Faust (1937?)
 
Above: Faust (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
This was followed by Tannhauser in 1938...
 
Tannhauser 1938
 
Above: Priniciple cast members of Tannhauser, 1938 (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
…and Bohemian Girl in 1939.
 
Open Air Theatre
 
Above: Bohemian Girl, 1939 (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
You can read about Eileen Smith’s memories of participating in 1943‘s The Pay of the Pied Piper here, which was followed by A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1944, and yet another Merrie England in 1945. 1946 introduced a new production – Maritana, while Hiawatha was 1947’s highlight – another repeat of a former production.
 
Open Air Theatre
 
Above: Hiawatha, 1947 (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
1948, on the other hand, saw the return of Faust (The Pageant of).
 
Faust (1937?)
 
Above: The cast of Faust (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
Robin Hood starred in the 1949 programme, followed by The Vagabond King in 1950 and Song of Norway in 1951.
 
Song of Norway (1951)
 
Above: Song of Norway, 1951 (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
The Desert Song of 1952 was yet another spectacular affair:
 
Open Air Theatre
 
Above: The Desert Song, 1952 (Stores From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
As was Annie Get Your Gun in 1953.
 
Annie Get Your Gun 1953
 
Above: Stars of Annie Get Your Gun, 1953 (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
1954’s Chu Chin Chow was a production set in the Middle, rather than the Far, East…
 
Chu Chin Chow 1954
 
Above: Chu Chin Chow, 1954 (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
While 1955 transported audiences to America with Oklahoma, followed by the rather grand King’s Rhapsody in 1956.
 
Open Air Theatre
 
Above: King’s Rhapsody, 1956 (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
1957 brought White Horse Inn and Showboat starred in 1958.
 
Showboat (1958)
 
Above: Showboat, 1958 (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
1959’s The Merry Widow was another well received offering.
 
The Merry Widow 1959?
 

Above: The Merry Widow, 1959 (Stores From Scarborough Image Archive)
 
1960, 1961 and 1962 brought in further new productions – Summer Holiday, Carousel and Rose Marie respectively, while Desert Song returned for another run in 1963. After 1964’s South Pacific, The King and I ran for two years (1965-6) followed by Student Prince in 1967 and West Side Story in 1968. Although the 1961 film was a huge hit, West Side Story (the live musical) did not go down so well in Scarborough, and marked a period of gradual decline in popularity for the open air theatre.
 
There would be no further musicals performed there after West Side Story.

 
During the 1950s and 60s the theatre hosted It’s a Knockout on Wednesdays  over eleven years. In the 1970s much of the island theatre set-up was demolished, and the final concert in 1986 featured James Last and His Orchestra.
 
Redevelopment began in 2008 and today’s Open Air Theatre opened in 2010.

Are there any shows missing from this list? Please get in touch or leave a comment below.

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The North Bay Miniature Railway

Scarborough’s North Bay Railway is one of the town’s most enduring and well-loved attractions.  Passengers can board the train at either Northstead Manor Gardens (the stop, however is called ‘Peasholm‘, after nearby Peasholm Park) or Scalby Mills, and take a scenic ride through park, along the seafront and back again.

North Bay Railway

Above: The North Bay Railway (source)

The railway opened in 1931, as part of the brand new Northstead Manor Gardens (Pleasure Gardens), which would eventually include a water chute, open air theatre and boating lake. The gardens were the brainchild of Harry W Smith, a prolific engineer who designed many of the town’s most successful tourist attractions. However, the miniature railway proposals met with a mixed reception from locals, gaining the nickname ‘the Borough Engineer’s Toy’.

Northstead Manor Gardens

Above: From the early development of Northstead Manor Gardens at Hodgson’s Slack (source)

At 2pm, Saturday May 23, 1931, the railway began taking passengers. As with all of Scarborough’s opening ceremonies of this era, the occasion was a grand one, with the presentation of artefacts to the driver (see below). Neptune was the name of the original locomotive, and Alderman Whitehead, presiding over the occasion, made the following solemn decree:

“On behalf of the National Union of Drivers, Engineers and others, I have to present you, the first driver of the North Bay Railway Engine, with your insignia of office, your oil can and your ‘sweat rag’.”

Neptune is the oldest engine, having begun its service in 1931. Triton and Robin Hood followed only a year after, and in 1933, Poseidon. The first two locomotives are still owned by Scarborough Council (then the Scarborough Corporation), with the remaining two owned by the operators (North Bay Railway Company), to whom Triton and Neptune are leased.

North Bay Railway

Above: The train setting off from Peasholm station (source)

A number of companies were involved with the construction of the trains and carriages, including Robert Hudson Ltd (Leeds), Hudswell Clark, Slingsby and Armstrong and subsequent additions and restorative work completed by Rail Restorations North East Limited, of Shildon. The original carriages have undergone much restoration to ensure their survival to the present day. Furthermore, the Patent Enamel Company provided the station boards whilst advertising boards and posters were provided by LNER (London and North Eastern Railway).

North Bay Railway

Above: Passengers enjoy the picturesque Manor Gardens (source)

However, after only a year of operation disaster struck. In 1932, 10 July, a collision occurred at the now disused Beach station, overlooking the North Bay.

Driver Herbert Carr, only 25, lost his life, and numerous passengers were injured. Thankfully when a similar accident occurred in 1948, everyone survived and injuries were minimal.

On July 6, 1940, the attraction closed until Easter 1945. WWII no doubt led many to fear a repeat of the bombardment that occurred during WWI, and securing coastal defences took priority over the running of the railway. Interestingly enough, the small tunnel in Manor Gardens gained a new function – as a place for the Royal Naval School of Music to store their musical instruments whilst operating from the nearby Norbreck Hotel.

North Bay Railway

Above: The tunnel at Northstead Manor Gardens (source)

The railway was acquired from Scarborough Council in 2007 by the North Bay Railway Company, who also now operate the Water Chute, Boating Lake, Sky Trail and more. Thanks to their continuing hard work, the miniature railway still delights passengers today, and aspiring train drivers can even book a session at the controls.

North Bay Railway

Above: The train and the water chute in the background (source)

There are plenty of stories to be told about the railway – any memories are very welcome, as are corrections, additional details and so on.

Please comment below or get in touch via the Facebook Page.

Sources

North Bay Railway’s website

A short history of the North Bay Railway

In-depth history of the attraction here

Scarborough Civic Society

Materials held at the Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library