Mary Defeo (left) and June Spearman put together some of the props for The Elves and the Shoemaker pantomime which hits the Capitol Theatre stage starting Thursday.

Standing-O for the panto crew

The spotlight will shine on theatre tomorrow night and like most undertakings, what folks see on the stage is part of the story.

The spotlight will shine on community theatre tomorrow night and like most massive undertakings, what folks see on the stage is only part of the story.

The Capitol Theatre’s annual Christmas pantomime opens Thursday and runs for five shows through Sunday afternoon. If you haven’t reserved your seat for one of the performances… what are you waiting for? Not only is this a vital fundraiser for this incredible community asset, it’s a chance to see your friends and neighbours totally exposed in song and dance numbers. The Elves and the Shoemaker won’t disappoint.

This is my second time around in the pantomime and with opening night right around the corner, I have to say the colony of butterflies in my stomach is no smaller than it was last year. For anyone who has seen my lack of rhythm from near or afar, you know what I’m saying.

Though the nerves at this particular moment are just as frayed, the journey through the process this time around has been a little more relaxing. No longer an editor-caught-in-headlights during the rehearsal process, I’ve had the opportunity to soak in more of the subtle aspects of the local theatre scene. What I’ve discovered is an incredible spirit and passion behind the scenes.

Last Wednesday I wandered through the theatre’s alley entrance (to avoid the mob of panto autograph seekers in front of course) to find the place buzzing with activity. As I made my way back to the costume department I had to weave my way through the small army of volunteers busily putting together props and readying the set.

Last year I was much more on top of my costume preparation, so I missed seeing this part of the action. I showed up for rehearsal one night and the set was there. I assumed it was just part of the theatre magic. I was wrong.

When the crowd shuffle into their seats this weekend, most are coming to see the bustle on stage. The singing, the dancing, the general panto silliness. After a wild two hours, a cast of close to 50 will take a well deserved bow.

Just as important as the actors who take us on a journey to Cobbleham — the place where the elves and all the shoemakers live — are the crew who allowed those on stage to arrive to the destination in the first place. People like Mary Defeo.

Mary is a vital piece of the Capitol Theatre picture. She has been involved in the annual panto since the late-1980s. She’s been in the cast, made some of the most detailed costumes, painted sets, created props and done whatever it takes to ensure that every panto is one to remember. She’s watched her kids grow up in the theatre scene where they have also become important members of the magic — for this year’s show son Connor is once again a standout member of cast and daughter Frankie is one of the choreographers who has to deal with challenging cast members like myself.

Without the dedication of volunteers like Mary, pantomimes and summer youth theatre productions don’t happen. They do it for the love of theatre, but more importantly they do it for the love of community. They selflessly give so others have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the scene and discover a love for the stage. I’m one of the converts.

The theatre scene is not unique when it comes to behind the scenes community spirit. It happens in youth sport, events carried out by service groups, schools and everywhere in between. It’s what makes places like Nelson thrive.

We’re extremely fortunate to have a venue like the Capitol Theatre. It brings fantasy to life and fills the air with music. It provides lasting impressions for both audience and those on stage. It’s one of those community treasures that makes us puff out our chest a little more when we boast about our little mountain town. Most importantly it’s filled with people who care.

When the final applause rings throughout the historic theatre over the next few days, make sure you give a little extra so those behind the scenes can also feel the love.

Bob Hall is the editor of the Nelson Star. He can be reached by phone at 250-352-1890 or via email at


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