Panto in hunt for Cinders and Prince Charming .. oh yes it is

THE King's Theatre is holding open Pop Idol-style auditions to find its Cinderella and Prince Charming for this year's Christmas pantomime.

Two young hopefuls will be plucked from obscurity and thrust into the limelight alongside established King's favourites Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott.

It is the first time the theatre, which will be celebrating its centenary this year, will have cast leading roles in this way for Scotland's biggest pantomime.

Director Paul Elliott, who has produced the King's panto since 2002, will be holding the open auditions in the Capital next month.

He said: "I want to discover two new stars in Edinburgh - I know they are out there. Although I've always auditioned in Edinburgh, until now I have only seen people through specialist agents.

"I've never actually opened the doors and said 'Come on then, where are you? Let's have a look at everybody'. And I just think now it's important we try to find somebody that's ordinary.

"Whoever I cast must be Scottish, and if they are local Edinburgh people that will be a bonus."

Anyone can attend the auditions, although to be in with a chance of being cast, and securing an Equity-approved contract, auditionees must be able to act, sing and dance. All will be expected to sing a couple of songs at their audition.

Mr Elliott has some words of advice and encouragement for anyone fearing a Simon Cowell-style mauling. "Look nice, don't be scruffy, do your homework and know your songs well, and have confidence, he said.

"Remember you're doing it for somebody that really wants you to be successful. I'm not Simon Cowell. Have fun, smile, don't be worried, you are amongst friends."

Still, Mr Elliott admits he expects the final casting to be a tough call. "It's been a long time since I've done a big general audition like this and you get an awful lot of people who think they can do it and can't," he said.

"But then suddenly somebody walks in and you go 'Wow'."

Prospective Cinderellas should be bright, vivacious and good-looking, at least 5ft 5in tall and in their early-20s. For the prince, Mr Elliott is looking for someone athletic, tall and ruggedly handsome, and in his early to mid-20s.

"It's important that Cinderella is not too small, blonde, feisty, and with a beautiful face. She must have a twinkle in her eye and be able to sing beautifully," he said.

"For the prince I need a star to walk in there and light up the stage. In an ideal world he will be 6ft 2in with a beautiful body, have charisma, be able to sing and act and have a wonderful laid-back modern quality."

The show will be staged 100 years after 16-year-old Phyllis Dare starred in Cinderella in the theatre's opening show.

A theatre spokesperson said: "Cinderella was the first show to open the King's in 1906, and our new production marks 100 years of top entertainment.

"Our pantos go from strength to strength each year and these open auditions offer the opportunity of working with an outstanding creative team.

"Cinderella and the prince are great roles and what could be better than the chance to entertain so many people at Christmas ?"

Auditions for the prince will take place at the Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, between 10am and 1pm on Tuesday July 4 and Wednesday 5, and for Cinderella, between 1pm and 4pm on the same days.

Cinderella opens at the King's Theatre on December 2 and runs until January 21, 2007. A special performance on December 8 will mark the theatre's centenary.

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