Confessions of a panto addict

It’s an addiction I now understand. The butterflies, the bright lights, the applause... the eyeliner!

It’s an addiction I now understand. The butterflies, the bright lights, the applause… the eyeliner!

Ready or not Nelson theatergoers, I’m back in the Capitol Theatre’s annual Christmas pantomime. That’s right, I’ll once again bring my lack of rhythm and inability to sing in tune back to the big stage.

It might come as a relief for those attending in early December that this time around my role is somewhat limited as a member of the chorus.

For those who don’t follow this column on a regular basis, last autumn I embarked on my first journey in the world of community theatre. At the urging of my then ten year-old daughter, we signed up for the pantomime and to my horror I was cast in a principal role. Honest John Probidy was my character in the Showdown at the Hoedown and local theatre will never be the same again. It was a bit part, but still a few lines and a sprinkle of solo singing that affirmed I chose the right course in life by opting out of Grade 7 drama class.

To help me cope with the trauma, I wrote about the travails in this very space more than once last year. The fact I made it through the run was in large part because of my public counselling sessions.

So here I am again. Some must be asking why?

I’ve been telling people it’s for my daughter — kids under 13 can’t be in the panto without an adult making the show — but that’s a lie. The truth is the addiction has taken hold and I crave the stage.

To some of my closer friends this is distressing news. I’ve never been much for bringing attention to myself, so it’s out of character (my real character, not one on a script). Last year they gave me kudos for being a good dad, this year they are scratching their heads and thinking I’ve gone mad.

Upon reflection, last year’s rookie foray into the theatre scene provided much more pleasure than pain. Opening up an entire new world in your early 40s is pretty cool and despite the fact I kind of suck, it’s worth it in the end.

I wouldn’t be doing this without my daughter as a sidekick, but I’m sure happy she too felt the urge to get back into the fray.

This year it’s more like going on a hike for the second time.

The first time you head out on a trail for a seven hour outing, there’s a tinge of nervous impatience. Unable to see the view at the end of the path, the sense of the unknown causes anxiety. When you get to the top and soak it all in, relief sets in. The sweat and sore legs, totally worth it. The next time you venture out on the same trail, what you know helps you breathe in the journey.

Witnessing the creation of the pantomime under the careful guidance of director Laurie Jarvis and her support team at the Capitol was the best part of last year’s experience. But the fact my guts were in a knot for pretty much two solid months as I tried to memorize lines and accept the fact I was going to be singing in front of 400 people, made the preparation in the moment less enjoyable than it could have been.

This year is different. Now a wise veteran of the stage (ya, right), I’m looking at it through fresh eyes once again. I know what the final view looks like, so this time around I’ll take a closer look at what it takes to get there.

Over the next two months I will again be exploring the inner workings of the pantomime through writing. This time around I plan to do it a little differently. Instead of using this space on a weekly basis, I’m taking my study of the theatre to the web.

Though the pantomime is a great Capitol Theatre fundraiser and important community event, I’ve run the course in this platform. With a municipal election campaign on the rise, the editorial page will likely heat up in the next couple months. We’ll save this real estate for the drama of a political sort.

So for those who want a glimpse backstage, I’ll be writing the insider scoop at And the good news is it won’t be all about me… I know how that can get tedious at times. Every week I’ll interview different cast and crew about the panto process. Without giving too much away — there always needs to be a little secrecy in the panto — I will take readers through the process.

The Elves and the Shoemaker opens in early December. You’ll enjoy the final destination, but feel free to join this theatre addict on the journey.




Bob Hall is the editor of the Nelson Star. He can be reached at