"I HAVE always been cast as the romantic lead, the Prince Charming”, laughs Chesney Hawkes when recalling his panto roles up to now.

Of course, at one point in the early Nineties the same was true of Hawkes in real life. His hit The One And Only propelled him to overnight fame and pin-up boy status.

The song is still instantly familiar and has become a cult hit among the younger generation. When he was booked to play a round of university gigs a few years back, Hawkes says, his own face stared out at him from teenagers’ T-shirts. Needless to say, Hawkes could not repeat the rampant success of The One And Only – which went to number one in the charts in ten countries – and was given the unfortunate tag “one hit wonder”.

Reflecting on the song today, Hawkes – with tongue in cheek – talks as though it is an actual person in his life: “We had years of fighting and we got divorced for a while but now we’re remarried. We’re friends again – friends with benefits.” Despite more or less disappearing from public attention from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s (when he appeared on a number of television programmes), Hawkes’ songwriting talent didn’t go completely to waste.

He has written and produced songs for groups such as Liberty X, Hear’Say, Tears for Fears and “loads of winners of Pop Idol-style competitions from around the world”. He continues to work with artists in this way from his base in Los Angeles, where he lives with his American wife and young son.

“I have two different lives,” says Hawkes down the line from Worthing beach, where he is taking a stroll on a break from rehearsals for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (he plays the Prince). “Pop star over here, music producer over there. My wife spent 15 years here, so we thought it was time to try something else. I’m always back here, though – I never get a chance to miss Blighty.”

Hawkes has recorded a few more of his own albums, too, with the last, Real Life Love, arriving in 2012. He plans to release a new record – as well as a musical he has been writing – next year. But for now, it’s panto. He has appeared in five pantomimes to date, the first of which starring alongside John Bishop, who at that time wasn’t considered famous enough for his name to make the poster. The pair made a fly-on-the-wall documentary of backstage life which was eventually aired on ITV.

“I’m an old pro now mate,” says Hawkes of his stage experience. “I’m an old thespian, a luvvie.” Hawkes seems genuinely passionate about the art of panto, from the improvisation to the crowd banter. “You don’t have a panto until there’s an audience, and that’s when you can play around a bit,” he says. “I have a feeling that some people in this cast will change the show completely – there are a lot of comic actors and I feel it will be different every night.”

Hawkes is perhaps the sole “straight character”, meaning he largely sticks to his lines and doesn’t crack any off-the-cuff gags. Joining the singer at the Pavilion Theatre are Richard David-Caine and Joseph Elliott from Cbeebies, X Factor finalist Niki Evans, West End actress Cassie Compton, seasoned panto favourite Simon Howe (playing the Dame) and Jo Brand, who makes a video appearance. It’s a mixed bunch, but that’s another joy of panto. Although, as Hawkes says, backstage relations aren’t always harmonious in panto world.

"It depends on who’s in it,” he says. "I’ve had experiences when everyone’s getting on well and then other times when you get splits in the company and some people aren’t happy. It’s the same in every job – some people are team players and some aren’t.”

A strange quirk of appearing in pantos is that actors are obliged to spend a whole month, including Christmas, in towns they may never have visited before. Hawkes has been to and played in Brighton many times but not so much Worthing. He admits it can be a strange lifestyle but says the pros outweigh the cons.

"Having spent nearly two weeks in Worthing now I can see it’s a lovely little town. I’ve got digs overlooking the sea and I’m very happy. It’s like stepping into another life for a month.” Will he get to see his wife and son much over the next month? “They’re still in Los Angeles now but they’re coming over for the Christmas period and they’ll spend some time with my folks.”

A fun fact you might know about me, as it were, and I went off and formed a grunge band and turned it up to 11,” he says. Hawkes’ money problems during that time are well documented; he told a national newspaper a few years ago that he was left with a £20,000 overdraft despite The One And Only’s chart-busting success. Now, he looks back and realises that he was naive – but understandably so, given the circumstances.

“You don’t realise when you sign to a record label how much money is being spent,” he says. “I remember doing videos that cost £250,000 but I didn’t take that in at the time. You don’t realise you’re paying for all of that stuff. It takes a long time to pay all that off.”

Another pitfall of his fame was the disorientation of spotting himself on posters, televisions and magazines everywhere. He has said he got “fed up” with seeing his own face all the time. “I didn’t think twice about it back then – I was just caught up in that whole world. It was every young musician’s dream but at the same time I acknowledged at some point that I was probably over exposed.”

By 1993, just two years after The One And Only hit number one, he was barely making an indent on the charts. His single What’s Wrong With This Picture only made it to number 63. So Hawkes ducked out of the limelight for a long spell. His production work took priority, although he says there can be a conflict of interests when attempting to maintain a solo career alongside his “other life”.

“Sometimes I’ll bring a song to the table when I’m working with someone else and I end up saying ‘sorry I’m going to take that for my own pile’,” he laughs. “But if Adele wants to use one of my songs, she can have it.”

Then came Hawkes’ latter-day renaissance – and, strangely, it was brought about by the youth. One suspects there is an element of irony about students taking a song like The One And Only to their heart, but Hawkes isn’t going to worry about that.

“I started getting offers to do gigs at universities and festivals,” he says. “I didn’t think anyone would recognise me and it would be a disaster, but actually it was almost better than before. The songs had become cult and I had no idea that had happened. Some of them are older than the people I’m playing to. But there are certain songs that survive – I call them songs with wings.”

Hawkes says he “hasn’t looked back” since the revival of interest in him and perhaps his mooted new album will introduce him to an even younger fanbase. For now, though, Hawkes is concentrating on providing as much festive merriment as possible over the next month.

It’s not exactly the life of a chart-topping pop star, but it sounds a hell of a lot of fun.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pavilion Theatre, Worthing, tonight to January 1. For more information visit worthingtheatres.co.uk