Adapted by Jonathan Kiley and Alan McHugh (from the original story by J.M. Barrie)
Director: Tudor Davies
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels
This year’s panto at the New Theatre is a thrilling, swashbuckling affair as Peter Pan flies into Cardiff. In a show that is full of lavish dance routines and spectacular scenery. J.M.Barrie’s classic tale of the boy who never grew up is the stuff that dreams are made of and this production, under the assured touch of director Tudor Davies, plays the fantasy to the hilt.
While one might question the raison d’être for dropping the parental roles of Mr and Mrs Darling (presumably dictated by length?) it is, of course, the traditional characters of the story – the fairy Tinker Bell, the infamous Captain Hook and the Lost Boys of Neverland – that are the key ingredients of this most loved of pantomimes.
What makes this Peter Pan so much fun, in particular, is the casting of television’s (former) superstar David Hasselhoff, as Captain Hook. When Hasselhoff appears one is torn between booing and cheering, such is his presence, and even if he might appeal more to the parents in the audience than their kids, it only adds to the magic of pantomime to see an American entertainer submitting himself to the fun of pantomime and all the self-mocking ridicule that goes with the job. ‘The Hoff’ – as he is affectionately known – is a master of the genre, never taking himself too seriously, and with clever nods to both Baywatch and KnightRider, and even a gorgeous take on Sinatra’s classic number My Way, keeps the audience thoroughly entertained.
Much-loved local comedian Mike Doyle is the Dame, providing a side-splitting delight as Mrs Smee. In oversized and outrageous costumes Doyle delivers a non-stop flow of gags that are as corny (and even just a little bit saucy but never offensive) as they come, with perfect timing. With a relish for the role that is evident, Doyle is everything a pantomime Dame should be.
Playing the “boy who never grew up” is Matthew Chase. Boyishly slim, athletic and sprightly, Chase convinces us of his magical powers. His excellence in a thrilling sword fight with Captain Hook is an added bonus. Female roles there are aplenty, with Stephanie Webber, famous from BBC’s The Voice as Mimi The Mermaid adding a splash of nautical enchantment to the Neverland Lagoon. Completing the beautifully sounding (and looking) quartet of supporting women are Julie Cullen, Emma Prosser and Natalie Winsor as Wendy Darling, Tinker Bell and Tiger Lily respectively. There’s a well-drilled ensemble too, with rotating shifts of enchanting young pupils from The Lorri Guppy School of Dance making up the Darling brothers (on opening night in Cardiff Will Greenaway and Jake Johnson as John and Michael Darling respectively), and the Lost Boys.
Great costumes throughout, and masterly effects that include an enormous and deliciously scary jaw-snapping crocodile add to making sure this panto ticks all the boxes.
Runs until 8 January 2017 | Image: Contributed