Following pantomime tradition of crossover roles

As Aladdin, Jana MacFarlane is in her happy place

Rivercity Players’ stalwart thriving as Aladdin in Christmas pantomime

When it comes to the joy of an experience, Jana MacFarlane has a passion for acting.

She doesn’t mind being centre stage, nor does she mind dressing for the part, even if it means playing a young man such as the title adventurer in the upcoming production of Aladdin (A Christmas Pantomime).

“I was not only honoured at getting the role, but very surprised, too. It was way out of my realm of expectations, since I had auditioned for the chorus.”

As children, MacFarlane and her younger brother sang along with their copy of the Disney movie version. Somewhat portentously, her brother’s young voice served well for the higher range of the princess Jasmine, so MacFarlane would sing Aladdin’s parts.

“And in high school, I would be in the chorus, since the leads always seemed to be sopranos. I sing alto.”

The fact that this is her first solo singing part is equally exciting and challenging, and she credits musical director Susan Nassachuk with leading her through the various new steps.

“Susan’s professionalism and patience are only part of the picture. She’s such an inspiration to me and always coaches with a positive attitude.”

Playing a young man onstage is another step outside of MacFarlane’s comfort zone.

“And no pretty dresses for me, either! Although the costumes are still fantastic, even for the male characters. I have several costume changes, each one getting more colourful.

“For the whole cast, every new rehearsal means either a new costume or detail, or another decision on style or colour groupings.

“It’s always fun to see how those details evolve.”

Something else that’s always developing is the set. Each time she enters the Rivercity Stage for rehearsal, there’s another surprise, whether a throne in a palace, or a village market, or kooky props for policemen.

“The amount of work that goes on here and the miracles that come about are always stunning. This is my happy place.”

Being a high-school teacher in real life is one of MacFarlane’s delights; working with kids onstage is another.

“Working with the youngsters in Aladdin is amazing; they are so focused and well-behaved. They know the lyrics, learn the choreography – I think they’re phenomenal. I completely understand why they’re here doing it all, and I would have given anything to be onstage at that age, doing what they’re doing, and acting in a real theatre.”

With all of that hard work, there might be a shortfall of family time for MacFarlane, especially over Christmas.

“I have a lot of family coming for the holidays, so I know I may have to catch up on sleep. But that’s not a bother, since I do what I love, and I love to do it.

“My role in the pantomime is a loving opportunity to entertain my family with this performance, and everyone else who comes to enjoy the show.”

Aladdin (a Christmas Pantomime) plays at the Tidemark Theatre Dec. 28-30 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 31 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the Tidemark box office, online at, or at 250-287-PINK (7465).