By Catherine Shanahan
Peter Pan gets off to a flying start with a cracking ensemble opening number and continues to soar, literally, as our airborne hero swoops through the window of the London nursery of the Darling children where the fun begins in earnest.
This once shadowy figure that hovered on the edge of the Darlings’ dreams is keen to bring them to Neverland to meet the Lost Boys (and girls) who are in need of a mother’s love.
While Wendy Darling was expected to fulfil that role in the original story, here it’s the larger-than-life Nanny Nellie, played by panto dame veteran Frank Mackey, who turns in his usual raucously funny scene-stealing performance.
Giving Mackey a run for his money is Sam Lupton, in his role as the pirate Smee, ostensibly the evil Captain Hook’s right hand man, but in reality a good guy.
Smee’s slapstick humour and crowd-pleasing antics make him a hit among the kids in the audience, while the older children (adults) will enjoy the cheeky exchanges between Hook (Michael Grennell) and Nanny Nellie, particularly on a saucy ‘Sing-Off’.
The show zips along for the most part (zip wires assisting), and there are some wonderful moments, particularly when the main characters first depart for Neverland and solid stage sets blend with projected clouds moving at dizzying speed.
Nanny Nellie follows through a starlit sky in a Fitzgerald’s bread van and special effects are extended into the auditorium to give a sense that we are all segueing beautifully through the planets.
Scott Hayward, who plays Peter Pan, belts out big songs beautifully, as does Wendy (Phoebe Dipple). There are energetic and highly polished dance numbers, right-on-cue musical sound effects, great lighting, fabulous costumes (especially the mermaids) and the usual sprinkling of topical gags (‘How do you solve a problem like Maria Bailey/John Delaney?’).
All in all, Peter Pan is a thoroughly enjoyable few hours of escapism for all ages.