Chef and comedian Hardeep Singh Kohli is looking forward to serving up the laughs in his first ever pantomime.
The TV funnyman, who shot to household fame as the runner-up on Celebrity Masterchef, will be appearing as the genie in the lamp in Aladdin at De Montfort Hall.
Hardeep and EastEnders star Tameka Empson, who plays Kim Fox in the soap, are to star in the production, which marks a return of pantomime to the hall after an 18-year absence.
Hardeep said: I am so excited about this I can't wait.
I have always had a fantastic response from audiences in Leicester when I have appeared there so to make my pantomime debut there seems the right thing to do.
I think part of the reason I got the role is that I had my own turban, so that cut down on costume costs! The last time De Montfort Hall staged a pantomime was in 1994, when families packed the 1,100- seater auditorium to see Cinderella with EastEnders star Steve McFadden, who plays Phil Mitchell. Continuing the EastEnders theme 18 years on, Tameka is playing the part of the Empress of China in the show.
She was a performer in the TV comedy sketch show 3 Non Blondes and was voted funniest female soapstar at a national award ceremony last year.
Antony Flint, general manager at De Montfort Hall, said: Everyone here is so excited about bringing pantomime back. It will be a traditional family panto, packed with laughter.
I think it is more or less guaranteed that when you have Hardeep and Tameka in the cast they are going to be playing it for laughs.
This year's panto is being produced by Imagine Theatre, which is looking for up to 20 children aged between nine and 16 to appear as singers and dancers in the show.
Steve Boden, of Imagine Theatre, said: We are looking for children from the area to get involved with the show.
They do not have to have any experience at all. They just need to be full of enthusiasm and good at singing and dancing.
The auditions are being held at De Montfort Hall on Sunday, June 30.
Applicants should be there for 9.45am for a 10am start.
Mr Boden said: People can get in touch with us before about the auditions and fill in an application form, or they can just turn up on the day.
If they have tap shoes they should bring them along. Above all else, they should bring along great attitude and a desire to be in the show.
He said the show is being written by former Leicester woman Susie McKenna, now at Hackney Empire, and she is expected to include lots of local references.
For more information about the auditions, call 024 7630 7001.
Aladdin is to run from December 14 to January 5. For more details about tickets, call the box office on 0116 233 3111 or go to: www.demontforthall.co.uk WILL DE MONT PANTO BE WORTH THE LONG WAIT? WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE LINE-UP? HAVE YOUR SAY... leicestermercury.co.uk
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