Ten-year-old Thea Solarik and her father Todd have performed together in Nelson’s annual Christmas Pantomime every year for the past three years.
They’re back at it in this year’s production, CinderAllen, because they have fun together. It connects them.
“It’s a fun thing to do with your child,” Todd says. “Thea and I get to hang out and it’s an opportunity to give back to the community.”
“We walk down every Sunday together,” says Thea. “It’s fun to go down and practise with him.”
Father and daughter say they meet lots of new people — they have a different director every year — and they learn new things every time.
This opportunity for parents and kids to perform together, singing and acting and dancing in an intergenerational cast of dozens, is built into the pantomime.
Over the past 30 years it’s become a popular performance opportunity for kids, but they aren’t allowed to participate unless one of their parents does too.
So for years Nelson kids have been helping their parents venture past their adult comfort zones by performing a wacky musical story in front of sold-out Capitol Theatre audiences that often include their delighted friends and surprised colleagues.
The idea is that theatre is something anyone can do, building community in the process.
Pantomime is an old British theatre tradition (and it has nothing to do with mime).
The story is usually a well-known fairytale, but fractured, with surprise plot twists and local humour. There is always a character known as the dame — a female character played by a man — and the principal boy, played by a female actor.
But this year, director Laurie Jarvis has made some changes.
“I chose to play with gender roles even more than in the usual panto style,” she says.
”I wanted to switch up the story of Cinderella so that the main character is a young man, with two evil stepbrothers. In addition, the chorus have made several suggestions for different takes on gendered aspects of this fairytale. We’ve even flipped expressions like ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ to ‘Mrs. and Mr.’ as part of our twist.”
There are other deviations from the fairytale, as well.
“A theme that runs through our version, CinderAllen, is that magic happens through effort, skill, ingenuity and community rather than wand waving and fairy dust. If this sounds like the show is kind of serious, it’s not. It’s full of one-liners, familiar songs, and the general silliness that you expect in a panto.
“As usual, we have a wonderful cast, from experienced actors, dancers and singers to first-timers, all ranging in ages from single digits to those of us who would perhaps prefer not to discuss age at all.”
Glynis Waring is creating the dance numbers for CinderAllen, and Tyler James is the musical director, as he has been for the past few years.
“There’s a good selection of stuff from musical theatre and old jazzy kind of tunes and some more popular stuff,” James says. “We’ve got a Queen song, a Stevie Wonder tune, a pretty good mix of stuff for sure.
“I love seeing the journey of the cast from day one, where it is a good mix of people,” he says. “Some of them have been in a thousand pantos or have tons of theatre experience, and other people who have never been in a show before or sung in a group before. You get to see this journey as everyone gets more comfortable and working together.”
The 31st Annual Christmas Pantomime Fundraiser runs Nov. 29 through Dec. 2. Tickets are $16 for adults, $11 for children, or $50 for a family of four, and can be purchased at the Capitol Theatre box office or online at capitoltheatre.bc.ca.