London’s favourite fictional detective will come to life on the Capitol stage in Nelson’s 25th annual Christmas pantomime opening Thursday.
Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of Buskerville, written and directed by Laurie Jarvis, features a cast of more than 40 volunteer actors of all ages.
Donning the detective’s cap is panto veteran Bruce Ormond, who has been in about 15 pantomimes dating back to 1987, the year the local tradition started. His mother was director of the city’s first panto, Cinderladen (a combination of Cinderella and Aladdin), in which he played the prince.
Last year he was Tom Cobbler in The Elves and the Shoemaker. This year he returns to the spotlight as Sherlock Holmes.
Though he holds the lead role, Ormond says everyone contributes a lot to the show.
“It’s a group effort and there’s total commitment from everyone involved,” Ormond says. “Even people you don’t see on stage — the people sweeping the stage or controlling the lights — we need everybody to make the show possible.”
The lead actors have been rehearsing their parts twice a week since September, while chorus members are in rehearsals once per week.
Much of the cast is made of parent-child duos. It’s required that any child under the age of 13 also have a parent in the production.
Ormond’s kids joined him in pantomimes a couple times when they were younger, though most years he’s been solo. Still, he thinks young actors bring a lot of character to the show.
“For many of them, it’s their first time being involved with a community effort like this,” he says. “Often this is what gives the bug for community theatre, or community participation in general.”
Co-starring in the show as Dr. Watson is Dustin Cantwell, who has four pantomimes under his belt.
“I do one about every five years, when there’s a theme I like,” Cantwell explains.
He’s a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, and British humour in general. He went into rehearsals gunning for the role of the detective’s trusted assistant.
“It’s a lot of fun to take someone so serious, like Sherlock Holmes, and spend the whole show making fun of him,” Cantwell says.
He’s looking forward to getting the show in front of an audience.
“This is really the Corvette of pantos; it’s a quicker, snappier version of this style of theatre” Cantwell says. “It’s really funny all the way through.”
Holmes and Watson don’t solve the crimes alone. They have the help of their hound dog Baskerville, played by pantomime rookie Eli Geddis.
A newcomer to Nelson, Geddis said he auditioned for the part because he wanted a way to get to know more people in the community.
“I haven’t been in a play since high school, but I’ve always loved dressing up and performing,” says the 25 year old, whose character has surprising crime solving ability given that he only speaks in woofs and howls. “It’s been amazing to be a part of this volunteer effort to support something so essential in the community.”
The pantomime is a fundraiser for the Capitol Theatre that helps fund its year-round operation.
Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of Buskerville runs November 29, 30 and December 1 at 7:30 p.m., with matinees on December 1 and 2 at 2 p .m. Tickets are $25 for adult, $10 for student and senior, and $45 for a family of four. Buy online at capitoltheatre.bc.ca or phone 250-352-2293.