REVIEW: Peter Pan - A Musical Adventure, Opera House, Blackpool
When the pre-school child sat behind you gasps and whispers 'How did he do that?' as Peter Pan takes flight just a few minutes into a show - you know that theatre has cast its spell on a new generation.
And that’s just what Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure is doing at the Opera House this festive season.
It’s an unusual hybrid between musical play and pantomime, which doesn’t quite settle on either side of the theatrical fence.
That said, it’s a fresh and imaginative new telling of the classic children’s story by JM Barrie - following the adventures of the boy who never grew up and his friends in Neverland - which cannot fail to capture the imagination.
The production has been specially written and designed for the venue, and before the story even begins to unfold you’re transported to a world where magical things could be possible thanks to a beautifully designed set.
The vast expanse of the Opera House stage becomes a more intimate space, transformed into a vintage-style circus tent.
The draped cloth sides of the big top are used to brilliant effect, as a screen to bring shadow puppets and light effects to life adding to the live performances on stage, thanks to director Kirstie Davis and designer Jessica Curtis’ combined creativity.
Reality TV star Jake Quickenden makes his stage and acting debut in the title role, and while vocally strong he struggles at times to fully engage.
Jennifer Ellison as Captain Hook makes the most of her feminine wiles as she bids to rid Neverland of Pan and the Lost Children, while Radio Wave’s Scott Gallagher works hard to bring comedy to the tale as hapless Smee and Maureen Nolan adds warmth as Mrs Darling.
Making the most of the imagination play are Grace Osborn, Elliot Clay and Robbie Curran as Wendy, John and Michael - really drawing us into the fun of the piece, as do the small ensemble in turn playing pirates, lost children and mermaids.
Some of the song choices - a mix of classic and contemporary pop - feel forced into the piece, purely for their popularity rather than complementing the narrative - but who doesn’t want a merry sing-along at this time of year?
The show is a perfect stop-gap between the childish realms pantomime and more grown-up theatre, ideal for parents keen to introduce more traditional plays or musicals to their families.
Where theatre and the magic of theatre is concerned, let’s hope we can all be the boy who never grew up.
Until January 7