Peter Pan the Musical – The Old Rep, Birmingham

Reviewer: Skylar Mabry

Book, Music and Lyrics: Piers Chater Robinson, from the novel by J M Barrie

Director: Alec Fellows-Bennett

Do you believe in fairies? And pirates? And mermaids? And giant, man-eating crocodiles? What about children who never want to grow up? Peter Pan is flying into The Old Rep this month, bringing all these characters to life in a cheerful, upbeat musical all about the boy who won’t grow up and his adventures. With catchy songs, fun dances, and a little bit of fairy dust, this show is a great holiday season treat.

If you’re not already familiar, Peter Pan is the story of a lively boy who never wants to grow up. Ever. He leaves his charming forest home in Neverland to hear the stories told by a mother in London, but when his shadow gets loose, her children – John, Michael, and Wendy – are whisked off “to the second star on the right and straight on ‘til morning.” In Neverland, the Darling children, Peter, and his friends fight pirates, going head-to-head with the dreaded Captain Hook. It’s a classic tale, and a good way to remind us to keep a bit of that childhood spirit with us all year round.

Lots of Peter Pan musicals, plays, films, and stories exist, all stemming from J.M. Barrie’s original book about the boy who never grew up. The Old Rep have partnered with Great Ormond Street Hospital and composer Piers Chater Robinson to present an upbeat, snazzy, uniquely British musical. Although it does have some panto elements (Captain Hook is an intimidating yet ridiculous villain, and rightfully gathered more and more booing from the audience as the show went on), this is not really a panto. It is, however, a joyful show with a lot of heart, and an undeniable classic, especially great for the little ones who may not have heard the story before.

The Old Rep is managed by the Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA), a well-established arts college in the city centre. This gives students hands-on experience year-round on all the facets of producing live theatre. Several lucky students are getting the chance to work alongside trained professionals in this show. However, the mixed cast and crew allows room for improvement. At this performance, there were some shaky moments technically, but they were mostly well-handled by those involved and didn’t disrupt the flow of the story.

The student performers are great fun to watch and bring a wealth of youthful joy to the performance, especially to their dancing. Choreographer CiCi Howells has done a great job at encouraging excellence and precision from the students. The professional cast also has some great moments: Nana (puppeteered by Stefan Davis) is adorably alive and charismatic during her brief time onstage, and the Darling family sound fantastic together in their signature song. At times, the cast really gel and the professionals seem to blend right in with the students. Rhian Lynch is a standout as Wendy, with an incredible voice and an ease onstage that is lovely to watch. She sings beautifully with Thea Jo-Wolfe, who brings the lovable Peter Pan to life.

This production of Peter Pan is great for families, with enough action to keep little ones entertained for around two hours. This holiday season, if you’re in search of an unstoppable traditional pantomime, Neverland might not be your best choice: Peter Pan is the right choice for a musical that’s fun and great for kids. So, think happy thoughts, pack your sword and your thimble, and book your ticket for Peter Pan.

Runs until 31 December 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Youthfully joyful

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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