The streets to the Cresset are paved with gold this Christmas. Dick Whittington will feature Eastenders cheeky chappy Ricky Groves as Idle Jack, and singing heartthrob Andy-Scott Lee as the title role.
Ricky lives in St Neots, so the location of the pantomime could hardly be more perfect.
Best known as Walford’s loveable Garry Hobbs, Ricky’s previous pantomime experience is on the ‘other side’ - as evil Abanazar in Aladdin.
He said: “I did Bath a couple of years ago, and I played the bad guy in that one.
“This time I’m looking forward to playing Idle Jack and it’s going to be a lot of fun. Being a bad guy was alright and you get a good reaction from the crowd – hisses and boos – and I didn’t mind it because the baddies get some of the best roles.
“But I’m looking forward to the other side - I believe I’m involved in the slapstick and fun side.
“Panto is a fun-filled festive time, and when you catch children when they’re young hopefully that’s your future audience and they’ll be the ones bringing their kids back.”
Ricky was once one of those kids. His grandmother was involved in amateur dramatics, giving him a love of panto from an early age.
He then joined the Poor School in London, performing in classical plays - which eventually led to a spot in Albert Square.
His other career highlights include competing in Celebrity Masterchef, I’m a Celebrity, Strictly Come Dancing, and Dancing on Ice.
Asked if he misses Eastenders, he said: “That was nine years and 850 episodes. I miss the camaraderie, I miss the people, but I don’t miss 5.30 in the morning.
“When we filmed in Boreham Wood it was an hour there and an hour backto St Neots, and you can’t turn up late for a job like that.
“I miss it but it was time to come out and do other stuff, and If I hadn’t come out I wouldn’t have done Strictly and the other stuff.
“It might sound corny but Strictly was life-changing because it opened a lot of doors for me – out of the three big reality shows of the jungle, the ice and dancing, I think the best was Strictly.”
Andy and his brothers were formed the band 3SL bagging top ten hits in 2003 with songs such as Take It Easy and Touch Me Tease Me.
The group toured with S Club 7 and Steps, one member of whom was his sister Lisa Scott-Lee.
Andy then branched out on his own, finishing 7th in the second series of Pop Idol, from 100,000 entrants.
In 2005 a reality show called “Totally Scott-Lee” was one of the highest rating shows MTV had ever enjoyed, which led to appearances on programmes such as Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Ant and Dec Saturday Night Takeaway and The Match.
As well as a growing sideline in acquiring property he continues to tour and performs on cruise ships - but is looking forward to a stint on dry land at the Cresset.
He said: “This will be my sixth pantomime and it’s just something that I love.
“Pop Idol was probably the best thing I have ever done and opened a lot of doors, but I have always gigged and toured. I prefer live performances. I don’t think you can beat it and you can often do things on the spur.”
Dick is a young ambitious chap who heads to London to find his fortune, and eventually to become mayor of the city.
Andy hopes that tale, and also the performances themselves, can inspire youngsters to consider acting or singing careers.
He said: “I realised from an early age that I wanted to perform but I was always too shy, and never thought I would really do it.
“I got over it through karaoke and that got me on the way. Superstition by Stevie Wonder was a good one to pull out of the bag, but from today it might be something like Moves Like Jagger.”
Andy’s family traditionally attended pantomimes on a Boxing Day, and he expects some to visit him during his stint at the Cresset.
He added: “It’s just going to be a fun packed show with something for everyone.
“Don’t forget there are also local performers - not every pantomime has that - and I think it is really important.”
Dick Whittington is produced by Premier Pantomimes, who have staged Jack and the Beanstalk (2007), Snow White (2008), Beauty and the Beast (2009), and Cinderella (2011) in previous years.
The show runs from December 15 to 30 and tickets are £8. The prices have been held from 2011 to the end of September.
Book online at the Box Office at 01733 265705, or visit The Cresset website info and tickets
The Cresset is supporting the Heart FM “Have a Heart” charity throughout the pantomime.
Emily Adams plays the part of Alice Fitzwarren. She trained in London at Millennium Performing Arts. She has already appeared in pantomimes including Peter Pan at the White Rock Theatre in Hastings, as Tiger Lily.
Zach Vanderfelt plays Sarah the Cook, following on from playing one of Cinderella’s ugly sisters last year.
George Dee is Tommy the Cat, and has now appeared in eight consecutive Cresset pantos.