Garrick panto is flying high

Peter Pan

Lichfield Garrick Theatre

**** 

PANTO season is upon us once again ("Oh no it isn't!" . . .  "Oh yes it is!" etc) and Lichfield Garrick's Christmas show, Peter Pan, is now at the end of the first week of a five-week run. 

The show is fun for all the family and children will be enthralled by the CGI Tinkerbell, Nana the dog, Slightly the ticking crocodile and the fairy dust.  Oh, and the Darling children are just that, darling. 

J. M.  Barrie's play has been delighting audiences for more than 100 years and continues to do so in this production.

Barney Harwood (Basil and Barney's Swap Shop, Smile) is the undoubted star of the show and judging by the programme he is no mean photographer either.  He is supported by a great cast, many of whom are from the local talent pool.   

Captain Hook (Ian Adams) has a point to make to Peter Pan (Barney Harwood)

Harwood takes to the title role and to the air as if born to it, flying out into the theatre sprinkling fairy dust onto the enthusiastic audience below accompanied by the Theme from ET and Somewhere Over The Rainbow.  The flying is particularly well choreographed.  At times there are four in a small amount of air space. 

The panto starts in earnest when the villainous Hook (Ian Adams) appears from the ocean mists (booooo).  Hook's sidekick, Smee (Barnaby) has a series of very interesting feathered appendages on his shoulder.  Hook asks “What do you feed the parrot.  Trill?”  “No” replies Smee, “Pollyfilla”.  (Boom, Boom.) 

We are treated to a Busby Berkley moment in the heavenly violet and blue Mermaids' Lagoon, with the young dancers dressed in purple feathers and Lisa-Marie Holmes is able to showcase the amazing range of her voice. 

Scenery and effects are imaginative and well done as we move from outside the Darlings' house to Never Never Land and back.  There are pyrotechnics and loud bangs.  The musical arrangements are spot on.  Narration is by Donald Sinden. 

There were a couple of hiccups along the way, but in true panto style they were just part of the fun and there were hoots of laughter when the pedal-powered boat didn't navigate the rocks too well. 

The finale is a medley of aptly chosen tunes In the navy ( the Pirates) Rock around the Clock (Hook and Slightly), We Are Family (The Darling Children),  Fame (Pan)  and many, many more.  Great all-round family entertainment. To 09-01-11

Lynda Ford  

 

Meanwhile reporting from  Neverland . . .

***

COULD it be that the infamous 'Elf & Safety busybodies were consulted before the Garrick's Christmas play - rather than pantomime - took to the stage?

How else can you explain why the man-eating ticking crocodile that is supposed to terrify the villainous Captain Hook has no teeth?

The curious croc looks more like an inflatable gummy lizard in its brief appearances, and even Ian Adams, as Hook, seems more nonchalant than nasty in his conflict with Peter Pan.

But there are plenty of plus points as the J. M. Barrie story unfolds, and I doubt if this theatre has ever staged such a dramatic scene as when Peter, impressively played by BAFTA award winning television presenter Barney Harwood, flies high above the audience sprinkling fairy dust right, left and centre.

It was beautifully done, and the Darling children Wendy (Lisa Holliman), John (Jamie Hocknell or William Stevenson) and Michael (Stuart Quigley or Louis McCoy), also take to the air, though not beyond the stage.

Garrick's annual favourite Barnaby (real life father of Barney) turns on the humour as Hook's side-kick, Smee, with a shoulder parrot that grows from sparrow sized egg to the girth of a gorilla, while Lisa-Marie Holmes is an impressive Mrs Darling and Mermaid, and Anna Kumble proves an attractive Tiger Lily as well as being the show's choreographer.

Directed by Ian Adams with Adrian Jackson's musical supervision, Peter Pan flies on to 09.01.11.

Paul Marston

 

Meanwhile coming over the wire . . .

****

THIS is a home produced show from Lichfield Garrick and it has moved their Christmas offering up both a couple of notches and a couple of gears as well as setting off in a new direction.

Don't expect an “it's behind you" and “oh no it isn't” panto. This is a full blown musical play, deeply rooted in the tradition of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up.

Peter Pan, after a brief appearance in The Little White Bird, a 1902 novel for adults from Scottish author J M Barrie, made his stage debut in a play in 1904 and has been a Christmas favourite ever since.

This version, written by Ian Adams who also directed and plays Captain Hook - as well as Mr Darling - has a cracking musical score  which is written and arranged by Adrian Jackson.

His day job is executive and artistic director of the Garrick but he is also a conductor and arranger with his own orchestra and has worked as a musical director in the West End.

The score is fulsome and melodic, particularly considering the size of the orchestra tucked away in a box and keeps up a lively pace mixing some reworked pop songs with new material

Jackson and Adams were looking for the MGM musical look and sound, within the limitations of the Garrick stage, and there certainly is a look of those classics from the 1930s with big, colourful scenery which was all built in-house under Ian Wilson.

Wendy (Lisa Holliman) ready to head off to Neverland with Peter Pan (Barney Harwood) to become mother to the Lost Boys and read them bedtime stories

Peter Pan is all about flying though and this version needs air traffic controllers as it manages to get the three Darling children John (played by William Stevenson or in other performances by Jamie Hocknell), Michael (Stuart Quigley or other times Louis McCoy) and the excellent Lisa Holliman as Wendy all up in the air at the same time as Peter Pan.

Tinkerbell is also flitting about up there with them but as she is a cleverly operated laser image you can't really count her among the flying cast..

Pan, played by CBBC presenter Barney Harwood, like his father Barnaby, who plays Mr Smee,  finds an immediate rapport with the children and for the young ones, seeing him flying above their heads sprinkling fairy dust over them is sheer delight, although the cleaners might be less enthusiastic with the less than magical dust the next morning.

The large cast of pirates, Lost Boys and Indians keep up a good pace and all add to the production in the sub plots as Hook takes on both Indians and Lost Boys in a bid to rule Neverland.

In this triangular power struggle Pan's lost boys are at loggerheads with Hook and the Indians until our hero Peter  rescues the Indian princess Tiger Lily from the clutches of Hook to bring about peace between Pan's People (just had to get that one in) and the Indians who form an alliance against Hook.

Tiger Lily is played by Anna Kumble who is also the choreographer. You get the feeling it is not going to be Hook's day as not only is everyone ganging up against him but even when he manages to leave Pan for dead, up steps a mermaid to bring him back to life.

The mermaid is another character giving value for money with Lisa-Marie Holmes in fine voice with or without her tail as Mrs Darling and Big Mama as well as the Mermaid.

SLINGS HIS HOOK

With the world against him it is no surprise when the pirate captain slings his hook (groan) and everyone lives happily ever after which is the cue for the finale which gave us a medley of well known pop songs from Go West and In the Navy to I will survive, Crocodile Rock  and Fame which had the audience up in their seats and ended with a standing ovation.

As this is a play, a more sophisticated animal, you don't get the sketches which are the mainstay of panto although Hook and Smee did manage a well performed variation of the Abbott and Costello classic sketch Who's on first.

It is a pity though that there was not the opportunity to use Barnaby more, missing out his usual chat with the children in the audience as he is one of the best in the business at involving youngsters. While we are at it the old crocodile would need at least his dentures in to give a hint that he was supposed to be frightening. With Hook bigger than the croc even  five year olds might struggle to believe the croc was stalking old Hook and have him for desert.

That being said though this an excellent production full of life and packed with entertainment. For any child  lucky enough to be taken along to see it this really is a Christmas treat.
Roger Clarke 

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