Director: Anthony Williams
Reviewer: Rebecca Cohen
It’s second star to the right and straight on till Blackpool as Peter Pan flies into the Grand Theatre for the festive season. Featuring familiar faces and packed full of storytelling and silliness, this is a pantomime that has plenty for both adults and children alike.
Unlike many pantos, the classic story of the boy who never grows up is not lost or changed throughout this show – writer Jon Monie and director Anthony Williams striking an excellent balance between loyalty to the tale and traditional pantomime conventions. The leading cast stay true to the roles that J. M. Barrie brought to life while giving them just enough twist to also appease the diehard panto fan. It is the acting, rather than the singing, that takes precedence in this particular show – many of the principals showing most flair in the former of the two areas. Natalie Hollingworth, as Tiger Lily, however, is the exception to this rule, her outstanding vocals really coming to light during her rendition of Katrina & The Waves’ Walking on Sunshine.
Jack Heasman and Ruth Betteridge as Peter Pan and Wendy do a fabulous job of moving the plot along and keeping the younger audience members captivated with their enthusiastic and boisterous performances, while Rachel Grundy gives a sassy and sparkling portrayal of a Tinkerbell on skates. But, without doubt, it is BBC Radio Lancashire’s Steve Royle and former Emmerdale star Tom Lister who steal the show, their rapport from previous years working together truly shining through. Together, they provide some of the most-loved and iconic gags, leaving the audience in stitches when gracing the stage as a duo.
At the heart of any pantomime is community and once again UK Productions has struck gold by giving students from the Barbara Jackson Theatre Arts Centre the ensemble roles and, for some, their first taste of showbiz. While off to a shaky start (older dance members having to move younger cast members into position and some synchronicity issues), the chorus get better and better throughout – growing in confidence with every passing scene.
While storytelling, lighting and special effects are superb, music choices – especially in Act One – could be better. On opening night, there were a few technical glitches, but these will definitely be ironed out for the upcoming run. Kudos to a very fast and intuitive Heasman, who managed to get from the upper circle to the stage in a very short amount of time when he was unable to fly through the audience for his final bow.
It’s fun, it’s faithful, and while not the most well-known or ridiculous on the scene, this is one Pan-to that will brighten any Christmas and New Year with faith, trust and a sprinkling of magical pixie dust.
Runs until 5 January 2020