Writer: Simon Aylin
Director: Nik Ashton
Musical Director: Tom Curran
Reviewer: Michael Gray
Another Christmas family show from One From The Heart for Chelmsford’s Civic. This time writer Simon Aylin turns to Barrie’s timeless Peter Pan, popular on stage since 1904.
His livelynewversion, dumbed down a little for us “TOWIE rabble”, still has most of the familiar elements: flying, the Lost Boys andNana the canine nursemaid.
The scene curtain has impressive projections of pirate ship and storm, and the designs are colourful: the nursery looks like something out of a toy catalogue; pop-up storybooks are referenced too. The rooftop gauze for the flight to Neverland is especially effective.
There’s no Dame here, of course, but nofewerthan three characters compete for the audience’s noisy affections: Eliza (Kerris Peeling) acts as narrator, and alsotags along withthe action as parlour maid, Tiger Lily and a cabin boy. Tinker Bell, played by Katie Brennan as a very feisty, thoroughly modern young woman. And cuddly Smee(Neal Wright),definitely favourite with the kids, with his naughty words and his X-Factor moment.
Samuel Parkermakesa dashing Peter, with his shock of red hair, fancy footworkand stylish swordplay; Eve Crawfordplayshis Wendy, spitefully dismissed as “frumpy” by Tink.
Jonathan Stewart is Mr Darling and Hook, both slightly under-played, given the frenetic tone of Nik Ashton’s production.
There’s a small chorus, all students from Laine Theatre Arts, and two teams of local children, who give good value in the Lost Boys number, and also play John and Michael.
The musical numbers, slickly staged but not always relevant or clearly sung, are pop hits in the main, anotableexception being Dream A Little Dream,beautifully styled by Mrs Darling (Brennan again)as a lullabyto her children in the nursery.
There’s a good deal of padding in the two-hour show, including crew training with mops, and an unexplained football sequence. The parts that work best are those which are firmly within the panto tradition: the crazy Twelve Days of Christmas (“Five Toilet Rolls”) with water pistols butalasno sweets tossed into the stalls,the birthday shout-out and the gorilla chase around the auditorium.
The capacity crowd were vocal in their appreciation of this fast and furious bit of seasonal fun, from the “Hello Chelmsford” warm-up to the party mix curtain call.
Runs until 4 January 2016