Eat your heart out, Simon Cowell!
On Sunday the Grove Theatre’s Panto Factor panel knocked spots off your X Factor celeb judging team.
And I should know - I was one of them.
Had to keep pinching myself as I took my seat alongside glamorous actress Anna Kumble (aka 90s pop star Lolly), legendary ‘dame’ Leon Craig and larger-than-life singer and vocal coach Jasette Amos.
We were looking for a Dick Whittington, someone to star alongside former EastEnder ‘Dirty Den’ Leslie Grantham and Ryan Moloney - alias ‘Toadfish’ in Neighbours, in the Magic Beans producion that opens at the Grove on December 13.
Jasette is already cast as Fairy Bowbells – she’ll be a show stopper, believe me – with gorgeous Leon as Sarah the cook.
No pressure for an amateur like me then.
First surprise was the way some of the wannabe Dicks were dressed. They were auditioning for the role of the show’s hero, right? Appearance is all, yes? So why slink on stage in grubby trainers, low-slung trousers and unkempt hair?
One of this laid-back lot couldn’t even remember the words of the song he’d selected as his show stopper.
It was a no from me. And the rest of the panel.
Second revelation: Dick can be played by a man or a woman. And, unsurprisingly, the women were a lot stronger than the men.
We saw 17 hopefuls ranging in age from 16 to 60 and from sensational to frankly past their sell-by.
Each sang two songs they’d allegedly prepared and had to win three out of four judges’ votes for that all-important recall.
My fellow panellists were desperate to discover a star, someone who strode on to the stage and made it their own. And they weren’t disappointed.
I thought Leighton Buzzard mum Ruth Platt had that elusive quality. She’s a former West End luminary who gave up the bright lights to raise a family. But she was followed by Kara Lily Hayworth who was equally amazing.
Then there was Brad Adams, a hunky teenager from Dunstable with size 15 platform stilettos in his cupboard from a stint in the Rocky Horror Show.
And a clutch of Luton kids fresh from school, keen to make an impression – in spite of their butterflies..
Decisions, decisions. My lips are sealed. But the winner will be announced on Thursday, September 26.
> Watch the auditions at www.dunstablepanto.com