Principal boy

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Vesta Tilley as a principal boy
Actress Nan Hearne as Jack in the pantomime The House That Jack Built

In pantomime, a principal boy role is the young male protagonist of the play, traditionally played by a young actress in boy's clothes.

The tradition grew out of laws restricting the use of child actors in London theatre, and the responsibility carried by such lead roles. A Breeches role was also a rare opportunity for an early 20th Century actress to wear a costume revealing the legs covered only in tights, potentially increasing the size of the audience.[1] The practice of having a female play the principal boy was becoming less common in the late 20th century, as further outlets were sought for the talents of young male popular stars and actors.[citation needed]

Although not written as a pantomime, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up is often produced as one with the tradition of a female principal boy continuing.

List of notable Principal Boys[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ anon (2005). "History of British Pantomime". Limelight Scripts. Retrieved 18 May 2011.