Musical theatre lyricist Tim Rice says “story is king”.
So we’re off to a good start with JM Barrie’s inventive tale of three children lured from their nursery by the mischievous Peter Pan for an “awfully big adventure” in Neverland.
The opening scene is a mishmash of songs featuring Who Will Buy? from Oliver!, and it takes a while for things to get going as Smee (Sy Thomas) does birthdays and a bit of stand-up. But as soon as the story takes over, my kids (aged three and five) are gripped. Peter Pan is played by the emotive CBeebies presenter Katy Ashworth, who strips away the cockiness of Barrie’s creation and plays him as an exuberant and energetic little boy.
Meanwhile, Tinkerbell (Elisha Covell), Peter’s sidekick, whizzes brashly across the stage on roller-skates to the delight of the girls in the audience, causing trouble wherever she flitters.
My little girl was particularly excited by the moments when Pan glides over the audience to R Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly and disappears up into the gallery; so much so that she wanted to “find Peter Pan”.
Sarah Jane Buckley as Mrs Darling/Mermaid and Victoria Boden as Wendy are vivacious support, and there are slick performances from the local dance school children.
And while I admit to being a sucker for a villain, Tom Lister almost certainly steals the show as Captain Hook. The audience’s boos for the evil pirate are a bit half-hearted at times and when he threatened to give the dress circle a piece of his mind, one lady in the audience (not me) retorted: “Yes, please.”
There are plenty of pop songs kids will recognise and panto wouldn’t be complete this year without PSY’s comical Gangnam Style dance.
Despite all the absurdity, a great story has to be believable and I’ll let my five-year-old speak for herself: “Maybe Peter Pan will magic all the children so we can all fly.”