From a fifth-place finish on Canadian Idol in 2006 to one of the lead roles in Ross Petty’s 2015 (and the last one he’ll be appearing in, although he’ll still be producing them) pantomime, Peter Pan, Steffi DiDomenicantonio has come a long way in nine years. The self-professed “musical theatre geek” who grew up singing show tunes in a family of medical professionals is more than excited about this latest turn in her life, saying she’d long dreamt of being able to star in a show like this.
“The first Ross Petty panto I ever saw was Aladdin at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, where I grew up,” she says. “A year or two after that, after my stint on Canadian Idol, I got a call from Ross and he said he wanted me to audition me for (drum roll please) Wendy Darling in Peter Pan with Kurt Browning.” Although she didn’t get the roll, Petty still kept her in mind and 2015 turned out to be her lucky year: she nailed her audition and landed the role of Wendy Darling in Peter Pan.
Only Petty knows why she wasn’t a fit that year — and every other time she auditioned — but DiDomenicantonio has taken it as an opportunity to further bolster her skills. Along with being multilingual in English, French and Italian, the singer, who self-adopted the moniker of “Steffi D” during her Idol days, enrolled in George Brown and won the role of Ilse in the New York play Spring Awakening.
But a little voice kept niggling at the back of her mind, telling her something else was waiting in the wings. Luckily, this time her audition stuck and DiDomenicantonio embarked on a bit of a magical ride. One of the things that drew her most to Pan is the sheer lovability of it. “I think one of the biggest draws for the show is that there truly is something for everyone,” she says. “There are so many jokes, for the adults and for the children, songs, modern and classics, and amazing dance numbers. It’s a classic fairytale with a twist, truly fun for the whole family, not just for kids.”
The Petty panto is especially noted for its ribald humour that manages to stay just out of reach for the younger ones, yet at not so much length that the latter don’t also squeal and shriek with laughter. DiDomenicantonio describes the younger audience as being one of the truest barometers of how she and everyone else is performing, saying, “Kids are the most honest audiences I’ve ever had and because the show’s very interactive. They never miss a beat and always let you know how they’re feeling.”
And though she’s got years of performing and pressure under her belt, DiDomenicantonio does admit to trying to overcome some challenges with Pan. “The biggest challenge in the show for me so far has been trying to keep my cool on stage and try not burst out into laughter,” she says. “Dan Chameroy as Tinkerbum is all kinds of hilarious and is sometimes unpredictable with his ad libbing. There have been quite a few instances so far where I’ve had to turn my face away from the audience or keep my shoulders from shaking from laughter or pinch myself during some scenes to try not to giggle and stay in character.”