WOULD-BE stage stars of the future lit up auditions for this year’s York Theatre Royal pantomime.

Open auditions were held to become a member of the panto’s “babes” - the show’s youngest troupe of performers - at the De Grey Rooms on Saturday.

Around 80 eager youngsters, aged from 8-11, were expected for the casting call, which was held in two sessions on Saturday morning and in the afternoon.

Casting their professional gaze over the young hopefuls were musical director Elliot Styche and choreographer Grace Harrington - both of whom are working on their fifth York panto - and stage manager Anna Belderbos, who is embarking on her 17th.

Rehearsals for this year’s panto, The Grand Old Dame of York, start on Monday, November 19, and all three of the professionals were confident they would have found their “babes” by the end of the day.

They were on the lookout for 12 children brimming with enthusiasm and personality, rather than trained performers. Anna said: “We want kids to be kids.”

Grace added: “There’s a real sense of family on this show. We want individuality and personality - cheeky characters.”

All the children were very excited after their auditions. Rose Healy, 10, who goes to Scarcroft Primary, said: “It was really fun.”

She goes to local dance classes, but enjoyed both the singing and dancing elements of the process: “I do tap, ballet and contemporary dance. It was much harder than I expected, but I got it in the end.”

This year’s panto will run from December 13 2018 to February 2 2019 and is York panto legend

Berwick Kaler’s 40th for the Theatre Royal.

As well as starring as the eponymous dame, Berwick writes and co-directs the world-famous pantomime with the cast.

For more information about the show and to book tickets go to www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk