There is nothing like a Dame - and there was nothing on the Sheffield stage to match the larger than life character that was Brian Platts MBE.
Brian, who has died aged 76, was for four decades at the heart of the entertainment phenomenon that is the Manor Operatic Society.
Under his direction Manor Operatic became one of the leading amateur theatre companies in the country, and its City Hall pantos were the stuff of legend.
Brian always played the Dame in the traditional seasonal shows - as well as directing and appearing in numerous other productions.
Born in the Firth Park area Brian was of solid working class Sheffield stock, but from childhood his passion was the theatre.
At 13 he was playing Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and during his early years he appeared with many of the city’s amateur companies.
It was 1965 when Brian linked up with Manor Operatic for the first time, and became a regular in its shows at the Montgomery Hall.
Society trustee Richard Foster said Brian had tremendous ambition and vision, and was always thinking of the next production.
“He really put Manor Operatic at the top of the tree - Brian was the boss, he pulled the society from obscurity to what it is today,” he said.
“He liked the shows to have a real ‘wow’ factor. He had great vision and worked hard to make them a success.”
It was in 1986 that Brian took the boldest step of all - moving the panto from the Montgomery to the 2,000 capacity City Hall during the quiet post-Christmas period.
“It was a massive risk - we had some money but we could have lost it all in a week,” Richard said.
“The first panto there was Cinderella. We ended up doing four shows on the last day and we were on our knees by the end of them - but we were told we’d got more people through the doors than Shirley Bassey.”
Brian’s ‘day job’ was transport director for a concrete and aggregates company, but after taking early retirement he was able to devote himself full time to the theatre.
His daughter Gay said he was fascinated by the spectacle of the stage.
“As a performer he had natural skills and talent,” she said.
“He was tempted when young to turn professional, but he opted instead for a family life with 51 years of happy marriage to my mother Maria.
“Dad was a Dame in the true Victorian tradition - he was not a bloke trying to be a woman, he was always clearly a man and he was utterly hilarious.”
Brian’s last complete show was Andy Capp at the Montgomery in 2005, before two strokes laid him low and thwarted hopes of a comeback.
Brian, who lived in Southgrove Road close to the Botanical Gardens, leaves his wife Maria, children Gay and Adam, and two grandchildren.
His funeral will be at St Marie’s Cathedral in the city centre at a date to be fixed, and the family plans an occasion to celebrate a ‘huge personality and a huge life’.