The great British pantomime is part of the Christmas tradition, with its dashing prince, delightful heroine, dastardly villain, dressy dame - and plenty of audience participation.
It enduring appeal always attracts major stars to the stage, and this year Gareth Gates is set to play Prince Charming in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon.
The former Pop Idol star has been performing since the age of eight, when he took on the lead role in a school production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. After finding TV fame, he went on to realise his dream when he was offered the role of Joseph in the West End.
For me, music is a release and a means of self expression," says Gareth. "When I'm rehearsing, it can be terrifying, but when I actually go on stage, I get into character and I'm on a roll. I adopt a different persona: In Snow White, I become a handsome prince!" Compared to serious West End shows, panto is nice and relaxed. It's an enjoyable thing to do, to get on stage and interact with the audience."
His five-year-old daughter Missy loves to watch him on stage and once, during the classic scene where the hero plays up to the audience by failing to spot the villain, a little voice from the audience called out: "Daddy – he's behind you!"
Gareth is looking forward to his fifth panto: "It wouldn't feel like Christmas without it!" he says. "I'm going to be singing some great songs in this production of Snow White. Panto really gets you into the festive spirit. As a child I went every year, and now I love to be part of other people's Christmas!"
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, written by Paul Hendy and produced by Evolution, also stars Witney White as Snow White, with Quinn Patrick as Nurse Nellie and Siani Owen as Queen Morgiana.
Performances at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon, run from Friday 5 December until Sunday 4 January. Tickets for performances from Friday 5 to Friday 12 December and Sunday 4 January are priced £17. All other performances are priced £21, £26 & £30 Adults and £21, £22 & £25 Children & Senior Citizens. Family Ticket £91. Concessions for groups. Tickets are available from the Fairfield Halls Box Office 020 8688 9291 or online.