Peter Pan the Musical. Adapted from the play by J.M. Barrie. Music and lyrics by Piers Chater Robinson. Directed by Anita Davenport. Musical director: Susan Davenport. Choreographer: Jodi Hammond. Ickle Pickle Productions. Belconnen Theatre. Until January 21. Bookings: canberraticketing.com.au or 62752700.
J.M. Barrie's classic story about the boy who didn't want to grow up is given a lively, entertaining and brightly staged production by Ickle Pickle Productions at the Belconnen Theatre. An enthusiastic and energetic company romp their way through the perilous adventures of Peter Pan the Musical as the leader of the Lost Boys confronts his nemesis, the dastardly Captain Hook and his blustering band of pirates.
First-time director Anita Davenport, with the assistance of choreographer Jodi Hammond and musical director Susan Davenport, keeps the audience, young and old alike, engrossed from the opening scene in the Darling household to the Neverland of the Lost Boys and the fierce battles between Hook and his cronies and the fearsome Neverland Natives. There is action a-plenty with Hammond's skilfully choreographed dance routines, rousing musical numbers and feisty war dances – and the sword fights, boisterously choreographed by Lachlan Ruffy. Comical villains and naive heroes make this musical version of Peter Pan entirely accessible and for two hours younger members of the audience laugh at the follies of the pirates, listen intently as Wendy tries to get Peter to express his feelings, and stand up clapping and fervently calling out "We believe in fairies" to bring Tinkerbell back to life.
What I find most appealing about Ickle Pickle's production is its engaging simplicity. There is no ostentatious spectacle, no superfluity of technical wizardry and no miking of the singers. The intimacy of the Belconnen Theatre allows for a direct, uncluttered and entirely comprehensible telling of the story. There is ample colour and movement and funny stage business to delight young audiences and sufficient satirical comment and strong characterisation to keep adults entertained. It is a show for the family.
Good children's theatre provides an excellent opportunity for emerging young actors to learn their craft and display their talent. Ickle Pickle's Peter Pan the Musical encourages young actors with talent to shine in this production. Most notable is Emily Pogson as the sweet and caring Wendy. Pogson's star is certainly on the rise and she is someone to watch out for. Greg Sollis plays Hook with devilish relish and in a resplendent Restoration pirate's costume, designed by Janette Humphrey and Miriam Miley-Read. Josh Kirk's Peter Pan demonstrates more than the usual amount of emotional vulnerability and sensitivity. His Pan is less pantomimish than many which lends interest to a psychological appreciation of a young boy battling the onset of adolescence. Patrick Galen-Mules doubles effectively as the irascible Mr Darling and the bumbling pirate Smee, while set designer Steve Galenic makes an adorable Nanna.
Peter Pan the Musical is an excellent introduction to an ageless fantasy where fairies do exist and dreams can come true. Ickle Pickle's production offers audiences a real holiday treat.