- The leading male role in English pantomime, traditionallyplayed by a woman. The characters derive ultimately from the roleof Harlequin. One of the most popular, Cinderella's Prince Charming,did not appear on the London stage until 1915. Principal boys wereespecially popular in the late Victorian era, when they were usuallyplayed by buxom music hall stars, whose plumpness in tights led tothe familiar thigh-slapping routine. The roles have attracted suchfamous performers as Vesta Tilley, Nellie Stewart, and Fay Compton;more recently principal boys have been played by soap-opera starswith good legs.