In a tense final worthy of any TV reality show, this year’s panto star for The Grove’s Dick Whittington was announced in front of a packed audience on Thursday.
Eight talented singers and dancers had battled through several heats for the illustrious prize of the role of Dick Whittington in the Christmas extravaganza at the Dunstable theatre.
The eight had to perform two songs before judges Jasette Amos, who plays Fairy Bowbells, Leon Craig, alias Sarah the Cook, actress Anna Kumble and editor Lynn Hughes, who were then faced with the difficult decision.
Victory went to Londoner Ben Irish who has now been awarded a coveted contract for the role.
Judging by the applause and cheers after his performance he was certainly a hit with the audience.
It will be Ben’s first big role. The former Arts Educational School London student has previously appeared as The Prince in pantos at Wakefield and Blackpool.
There were three locals in the talented line-up - former West End veteran Ruth Platt, a mum of two from Leighton Buzzard; 17-year-old Brad Adams from Dunstable and aspiring Luton teenager Josh Hawkins, 16, from Bushmead.
Ruth had not been for an audition for a few years and was urged by the judges to get back into the industry and Brad and Josh were both told they had bright futures ahead of them on the stage.
The show was compered by Ian Brown from BBC Three Counties Radio.
Ben will now be joining the rest of the cast this week – including Leslie Grantham, alias EastEnders’ Dirty Den who plays Dirty Rat, and Ryan Moloney, who is Toadfish from the TV series Neighbours and plays Idle Jack – for rehearsals for the panto.