Entertainer Michael Barrymore last night said he was delighted by the performance of North-East youngsters auditioning to appear with him in a musical.
Scrooge - The Musical, a retelling of Charles Dickens's classic A Christmas Carol, opens tonight at the Sunderland Empire and two lucky children were chosen from more than 200 hopefuls.
Amelia Hewitt, 10, of Hollingside Way, South Shields, and Michael Brown, nine, of Dene Lane, Fulwell, Sunderland, impressed the star with their acting and singing abilities. Amelia will take the role of Poppy while Michael plays Oscar. Mr Barrymore, 54, takes on the role of Ebeneezer Scrooge.
He has been beset by controversy, with police re-opening an investigation into the death of Stuart Lubbock, found drowned in the star's swimming pool at his Essex home in 2001.
But Mr Barrymore said he had got a hero's welcome in Sunderland, being besieged by crowds when he popped to the shops. He said: "There was a great amount of talent on show. A lot of these children were not even born when I was regularly doing shows on TV, but they gave me a great welcome.
"And when I popped to the shops to buy a heater, I should only have been five minutes, but it took me an hour-and-a-half with all the people I met.
"The show should be great - I really wanted to play the role as an actor rather than an entertainer - and I am really pleased to be able to perform it at a wonderful theatre like this."
The show runs until January 13. Book tickets on 0870 602-1130.