A Burton woman has seen her fairytale wish come true - after landing a starring role in Nottingham's Beauty and the Beast pantomine.
Naomi Slights has been transformed into the belle of the ball for the entire festive period after being cast as Belle, star of the pantomine spectacular.
Naomi, 31, first started entertaining people at the age of six when she trained as a dancer. Now, 25 years later, she is living the dream as her favourite fairytale princess after landing the plum role in the popular panto.
The former John Taylor High School pupil said: "I started dancing in Burton when I was a little girl and it was always a hobby but as time went on I started to do more singing and acting and it became the biggest part of my life.
"I must have been about 16 or 17 when I had a lightbulb moment and started to think that maybe I could do it as a career and build a life doing what I love.
"I started auditioning in London and I never looked back."
Naomi, who lives in London, got her big break after being cast as Stephanie in Saturday Night Fever, a role which took her all over the world.
She said: "I first got the job in Germany and it was my first lead role, then I did the UK tour as well. I would definitely say that is the highlight of my career so far. Saturday Night Fever was that turning point which transformed me from a dancer to a leading lady."
It was while Naomi was touring that she auditioned for the part of Belle in the Theatre Royal Nottingham’s pantomime version of the Disney classic.
She said: "My partner had already been cast in Beauty and I was away when the opportunity came up so I did all the applications via video link and video footage. The part for Belle was still up for grabs and of course that is the role everyone wants so I crossed my fingers and was delighted when I got the part.
"It was awesome because, as well as myself and my partner getting the job together, I had only done panto once before and that was as a dancer so it was definitely a challenge, but a good one.
"It has been great fun and the reaction we get is amazing, especially from the children when the famous dress comes out. It is based on the original story so there are lots of moments that relate to the film."
Naomi hailed Beauty and the Beast as one of her favourite fairytales when she was a child and said getting to play Belle was a "dream come true."
She said: "The team is amazing and the director is a dream to work with. We have a very tight schedule so it is nice that we can have a laugh while doing it. The show is really good and there are the dames and the comedy characters who provide the laughs and the more serious characters.
"For the funnier characters they can almost get away with making mistakes because they can laugh it off but I very much have to stay true to the story and true to Belle which is a lot of pressure but also an amazing honour."
Despite her passion for performing Naomi admits she still gets nervous before the curtain rises.
She said: "I still get very nervous, especially when it is something new and before this I hadn’t done panto in such a long time. The difference between this and what I normally do is the level of audience participation but it is great to see people getting so involved and really having fun.
"The show is selling so well and opening night was jam-packed, it was quite scary to see so many faces."
As well as spending her days as bookworm Belle, there are also other perks to the job as Naomi gets to work and perform alongside ex-Loose Women presenter and Benidorm actress Sherrie Hewson and Ben Richards of Footballers Wives’, Hollyoaks and The Bill fame.
She said: "It is lovely working with them. Ben is fantastic and we have been in similar shows, both working in the musical theatre industry, so we have lots in common. Sherri is an absolute hoot. She is lots of fun but is always very chilled - she is just great to be around.
"I have always been inspired by music of all genres and I love watching different musicals and shows. I am also inspired by friends who have been in the industry longer than me as you have to have the right head on your shoulders. It can be quite a hard industry at times.
"Our schedule is pretty full-on with two shows a day but I like to relax by listening to music and lighting a candle and chilling out. I love the gym but it is not very relaxing after a hectic day.
"Being in Nottingham we are so close to home which is great at Christmas. My friends, family and people in Burton only have to nip down the road to see the show. Being so local hasn’t happened in so long, so I am enjoying it while I can. It is nice to feel like that network of loved ones is close by after months on the road."
Beauty and the Beast is showing at the Theatre Royal Nottingham until Sunday, January 14.
Tickets cost between £18 and £35.50 with discounts available for members, under 16s, families and Go Card holders. To find out more visit www.trch.co.uk or call the box office on 0115 989 5555