Nikita Towe has been a part of almost every Nanaimo Theatre Group Christmas pantomime since 2003, and she said each time they sell out sooner and sooner.
This year is no exception, she said, noting that all seats for this month’s production of Cinderella have been accounted for since the end of November.
“It’s definitely a family tradition,” said Towe, who is directing the show. “We’ve had people coming for many years who know to get their tickets early.”
Towe said Cinderella follows the traditional plot of the fairy tale, in which a destitute young woman attends a royal ball with the help of her fairy godmother, but in true panto fashion there is comedy, audience participation and actors cast across gender. Towe said what distinguishes this show is the greater number of cast members who are either new to acting or new to the NTG. She said they’ve taken to the material well and that the NTG is “a great place to get your feet wet.”
One past actor returning in a new capacity is Natasha Ballantyne. She’s acted in the past four pantos and is a frequent backstage collaborator of Towe’s but this is her first time as co-director. She said “there’s always going to be nerves” but she’s feeling confident.
“I had a great co-director that has helped mentor me and guide us in the right direction,” Ballantyne said. “So I feel very blessed to have gotten to work with her for my first time and that helps put all the nerves at ease.”
Towe said Ballantyne has stepped “beautifully” into the new role and added that the two of them often think alike.
“We’ve started to blend into one,” Ballantyne said. “It’s kind of scary.”
Melissa Kahan stars as Cinderella. Last year she portrayed Anne Frank in the NTG production of The Diary of Anne Frank, but she hasn’t been in a pantomime since playing the doormouse in Alice in Pantoland in 2012.
“We have a really amazing cast,” she said. “Everybody’s so excited to be in it and really talented, too. So it’s going to be an amazing show.”
Among the new actors is Alejandro Mujica, who pines for Cinderella in the role of her close friend, Buttons. He hasn’t acted since high school but was motivated to audition for Cinderella after attending the NTG’s pantos with his in-laws.
“My wife was like, ‘Just go or you’ll be questioning if you should have done it or not,’ and here I am,” he said. “I don’t get tickets because I have to be here for the whole run, but they’ll be there on Boxing Day in the same seats we’ve had for the past three years.”