It was one of the hottest days of the year, but Darlington Civic's pantomime launch went ahead without headline star Ian Reddington.

Co-star Pete Hillier talked to Viv Hardwick about finding TV fame as Boogie Pete. WHILE Coronation Street favourite Ian Reddington was forced to cancel his appearance at Darlington Civic Theatre's pantomime launch on Monday, costar Pete Hillier of TV's Boogie Beebies fame saved the day by announcing his grandmother is from Middlesbrough.

Reddington, who has played Vernon Tomlin since 1996, was unable to don the garb of evil Fleshcreep as cast members for Jack And The Beanstalk gathered at Walworth Castle, near Darlington.

Executive producer Michael Harrison says: "Ian is still under contract until September and a last minute change in schedule meant that he won't be travelling up to Darlington until next week."

ITV confirmed last month that Reddington is leaving TV's mostwatched soap in September to appear in a London play called Lemon Princess and Darlington's pantomime.

Pete Hillier is co-starring as Jack and confesses that he's not looking forward to climbing the beanstalk because he's afraid of heights.

"I was all right until I climbed the tower at York Minster and there was scaffolding which made it look like you could fall," he said.

On his other links to the North- East he adds: "My family is from Middlesbrough originally and my nan is called Doreen Deller and she'd love a mention in the newspaper. She's never seen me in a show before but she says she's coming to the Civic for the panto."

Hillier, who is married to West End peformer, Lisa, and has a oneyear- old son called Jack, also has an aunt in Redcar.

This will be his fifth panto and he laughs about the cast sweating in full panto costumes in June: "It's always a bit strange because we normally have to go somewhere in June, July or August for panto season that's not for another six months."

The trained dancer, singer and actor forged a career in West End musicals before achieving fame as the presenter of Cbeebies Bafta award-winning series Boogie Beebies, aimed at getting youngsters from three to seven dancing rather than sitting in front of the TV. The 30-year-old smiles broadly when asked if he minds becoming known as children's favourite Boogie Pete.

"Do you know what, it is good in a way. The only time I ever get noticed is by kids and mums in the supermarket and it's nice they come up and say how much they enjoy the programme. There's never been any negativity about the show or myself, but I know I must annoy quite a lot of the parents as well by my constant hello, come on, get up and dance'.

"On the first series I was known as Pete but then kids started saying there's Boogie Pete'. So I thought well I don't mind, I'll call myself Boogie Pete' and that's kind of stuck. But my friends call me Boogie and at one stage I was in the show Boogie Nights. So I was Boogie Pete in Boogie Nights. I could be called worst things such as Bogie Pete."

He's full of admiration for Magnus Scheving, the creator of the Lazytown TV series and live shows, who dreamed up the character Sportacus at around the same time as Boogie Beebies with the similar idea of encouraging children to exercise. "Magnus is doing a hell of a lot better for himself than I am by touring Lazytown all around the country and I'm competing with him with my own show Boogie Pete Live.

That started at nurseries and parties and went so well that 200 would turn up and I decided to come up with my own theatre show," he says.

Hillier also directs, teaches Street Jazz and choreographs, writes stand-up comedy, performs in a rock tribute band called Attribute (his idea), a jazz trio and does a solo act as well as recently taking up photography.

"You have to be able to do everything in this business, otherwise you're never going to get any work. I originally wanted to be an actor, but it was dancing that took me into West End shows," he says.

His advice for others wanting to follow him into entertainment is to think about having a back-up plan as well. "I once said to my mum when I was about 14 and still in bed at 10.30am that I'm just practising because I'm going to be an actor and out of work most of the time'.

Thankfully, I've not had that much time out of work. But it is a tough profession when you're auditioning against 300-400 other guys for five parts and there are thousands of girls for every job," he says.

On the growth of reality TV shows based around people who want to be famous Hillier says: "You wouldn't have a lawyer or a doctor recruited like this. Famous for being famous is one thing, but every now and then someone does come along who is genuinely good."

* Jack And The Beanstalk runs from December 6 to January 18.

Tickets: £11-£18.50. Box office: 01325-486555