A NATIONAL treasure and a Britain’s Got Talent winner will star in the Northwich panto.

The cast of Memorial Court’s upcoming production of Beauty and the Beast met for the first time yesterday (October 17) as eyes start turning to the festive season.

Among them is the legendary Family Fortunes presenter, Les Dennis, and Ashleigh Butler, best known for winning BGT with her dog Pudsey in 2012.

Les performed in Northwich right at the start of his career, when he toured social clubs in the North West on the comedy circuit.

Now, 50 years later, he is excited to make a return as he takes on the role of an evil king in this year’s panto.

He said: “The thing about the panto is there is such responsibility to get it right because it’s the first time lots of kids are coming to see a show and if they love it they will carry on going to see theatre all their lives.

“I have never done Beauty and the Beast before, and I’ve never played a king. It will be nice to get the boos for a change!”

Co-star Ashleigh will be joined on stage by Sulley, who has been performing with her since the death of Pudsey in 2017.

It will be her second time in a Northwich panto, having played Alice during a tour in Easter 2018.

“I love panto and everything it stands for,” she said.

“It was something my nan always used to take me to and I distinctly remember watching Cinderella one year and I thinking ‘I want to be up there’ and now I get to do it.

“Not a lot of people get to live their childhood dreams and I do so I feel very lucky. Who can say they are a fairy for their job?”

The show is being produced by Anton Benson and will star Georgie Jackson as Belle and Matthew Atkins as the Beast.

Ryan Greaves and Steve Moorewood will assist with the script, having performed in 11 and 10 Northwich pantos respectively.

Steve, who will play Dame Dolly, said: “It is the first time we have ever done Beauty and the Beast at Christmas so that’s exciting.

“A lot of the public might not be aware how many shows we do for schools. Those children could be coming to a theatre for the first time ever. You can see it when they come in, the whole scale of it takes them by surprise.

“So that’s really important because if they have a great time then hopefully they will come back."

On what to expect, Ryan, who will be the Dame’s son Wally, added: “We know what the Northwich audience responds to and what they love.

“They have expectations so we have to match them, and then hopefully surprise them in new ways, which gets harder and harder to do every year.

“Twelve days of Christmas is a fixture. We couldn’t do the panto without it or I think the people of Northwich would riot. It’s the one thing we have to do each year and it’s got to be bigger and better.

“We don’t want to give any spoilers, there are a few twists in the tale!”