hook, pan, endy and Smee

Captain Hook, Mrs Darling, Smee and Peter Pan

Peter Pan

Malvern Theatres

*****

THE pantomime season exploded into dynamic life in Malvern last night with the opening night of Peter Pan.

Scott Ritchie’s team provide a varied and colourful show that was much enjoyed by a large audience, and set the run off to a great start for the next few weeks.

Based on J.M. Barrie’s novel Peter Pan and Wendy the story explores the imaginary world of a young boy and his adventures in Neverland. He encounters the Pirates, the Indians, the lost boys and the infamous Captain Hook.

Peter transports the young Wendy and her brothers into his imaginary world for a time of dramatic excitement and adventure before returning them to their anxious parents. However Peter cannot be persuaded to leave the world where he is able to fly and remain a carefree boy forever.

The show moves between the streets of London and the bedroom where the Darling children sleep and the shores of Neverland, where we find the mermaids’ lagoon, the shore, the woodland and the boys’ hideaway.

We even spend time on board the Jolly Roger where Captain Hook is superseded by his soft-hearted lieutenant Smee. This provides a perfect opportunity for the show’s designer to present us with great variety of scenery much of it depicted on various stage cloths. The production is wonderfully colourful, evocative and musically vibrant.

Smee, played by Andrew Agnew, provides something of a link in the development of the story. Agnew, with his Scots accent and warm-hearted humour, carries off the corny jokes with huge aplomb. With his cheeky humour and ultimately good heart he captures the hearts of the audience. Agnew’s athleticism in the acrobatic gymnastics scene is truly admirable!

The singing, especially by the female members of the cast, is excellent. Hannah-Jane Fox, as Mrs Darling and the Mermaid, has a wonderful voice; Rosie Needham, as Tinkerbell, delivers the Fight song with terrific power and conviction while Jessica Punch and Anna Lawrence, as Peter pancastand Wendy, sing a lovely duet together.

Mark Moraghan plays both Mr Darling and Captain Hook and delivers the latter with just a suitable degree of menace, stereotypical ‘baddie’ but without scaring the youngest in the adience! Andrew Rothwell, Jacob Theisinger and Chris Gage are the Pirate Crew Nitwits; their clowning and their acrobatics and general humour provide great entertainment with  gymnastic feats that were both hilarious and inventive.

Andrew Agnew as Smee, Mark Moragham as Hook,  Jessica Punch  as Peter and Hannah-Jane Fox, as Mrs Darling

The cast is then completed by the townsfolk/Indians/dancers and the Lost Boys and children with Rhys Harris Clarke and Oliver Simmons charming as  John and Michael.

Alastair Bull has done a wonderful job with the choreography and mention should also be made of Nana the dog (Amelia Arnold) that were both and of course the Crocodile!

The show even provides some light-hearted moralising: be positive and believe and you will be reinvigorated! You never value people until you miss them! Mothers always send you to sleep, when you are not tired, but wake you up when you are! All wholesome entertainment!

Pantomime provides the full works: the musicians, the costumes, the lighting, the colourful sets all add to a feast of vigorous fun, colour and energy. The audience were delighted and if the cast can maintain this energy for the coming three and a half weeks, adults and children alike are in for festive treat! To 03-01-16

Timothy Crow

10-12-15

 

And second to the right and straight on till morning . . .

****

THERE may not be a line-up of famous faces in this year's panto at Malvern Theatres but what it lacks in celebrity it makes up for in music and character.

This traditional version of Peter Pan has all the essential ingredients for a fun Christmas show - laughs, local children in the cast, a plethora of well-known musical favourites plus one of the best baddies you're likely to see.

Former Holby City and Brookside regular Mark Moraghan steals the show as the dastardly Captain Hook, quickly drawing gasps as he tears the head off a Pooh bear soft toy.

Pan's pirate arch enemy is given a hilarious X Factor style introduction on a big screen and Moraghan is in such good form, partly because you can tell he enjoys hamming it up for the predominantly child audience.

Opening in a London street, the panto has borrowed some scenes and tunes from Mary Poppins to introduce the Darling family.

Peter Pan is played by likeable Jessica Punch, who has mastered the art of flying (with wires) while her sidekick Tinkerbell is an enthusiastic Rosie Needham, who zips around in rollerskates and later blasts out an impressive version of Rachel Platten's recent pop hit Fight Song.

Comedy comes in the form of Scottish comedian Andrew Agnew as Smee. Rather than a dame, he's the kind-hearted, silly pirate, but offering more risque jokes is a refreshing Hannah-Jane Fox as a street-wise mermaid.

The show is boosted by the addition of an acrobatic pirate crew (Andrew Rothwell, Jacob Theisinger and Chris Gage) whose range includes fire-eating, somersaults and dancing, and all the cast have strong voices which makes the performance of Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked a particular highlight.

I've knocked off half a mark for some slight amateurish elements of the show, such as being able to hear the set being changed very loudly from behind the curtain while actors tried to carry on regardless at front of stage. There was also a moment when the mermaid urged everyone to shout 'he's behind you' but no-one was there yet.

Overall, Malvern's Peter Pan is the essence of a family panto. It's silly, fun and entertaining without needing the celebrity faces.

Alison Brinkworth

10-12-15 

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