Henry Winkler, of Happy Days fame, is truly the star of Peter Pan at the Liverpool Empire.
As baddies go, he is a good’un. He plays the father, Mr Darling, but really comes into his own as Captain Hook, the dark dastardly pirate who captures the Lost Boys, as well as Wendy, John and Michael.
The sets are magnificent, splendidly colourful and inventive, as are the costumes, lighting up a dark winter’s night. The flying scenes could have been extended, though the initial flight when they leave the bedroom to escape to Neverland is magical, the roofs of London projected onto a thin curtain behind which Peter, Wendy and the boys soar. But as Natasha Hamilton (Peter Pan) is pregnant a stand-in does the honours.
The dialogue contains the usual silly jokes, and many local references, but surprisingly few double entendres, so not much for the adults here then, but it is a kids’ show!
Hamilton, now forging a solo career whilst Atomic Kitten are having a break, has a pleasant enough voice though she lacks the dynamism needed for a star part. But for the youngsters this doesn’t seem to matter, for she is one third of a great group, and they respond with enthusiasm each time she’s on stage, especially when she sings one of the Kitten’s hits ‘Whole Again’.
Another scouser who wows everyone is Les Dennis as Nurse Nora in the Darling household and Nutroast Nora as the pirate’s cook. As the dame he works his socks off in a variety of silly costumes, but what is missing is a good foil, either a counterpoint straight man or another dame.
What does cause hilarity are unintentional faux pas, when in this performance his wig falls off, and again when his bright red tutu comes adrift. He quickly covered his attributes whilst backing into the wings to be re-dressed.
Earlier, Nana the dog, beautifully played by Patrick Buckley, loses a ‘foot’ that plops into the audience. Dennis swiftly adlibs: “Can we have our foot back please,” to howls from the audience.
There are many ensemble and solo songs, including singalongs with the audience, and, of course not forgetting the ‘it’s behind you’ tradition that gets the kids screaming when the crocodile appears, as well as tinies on stage to ‘help’ with the singing. This is one of the key parts of any pantomime and always guaranteed to provide laughs and the ‘aah’ factor, which this does in abundance.
There are many good performances but special mention must be made of Nikki Davis-Jones (Wendy), a star in the making. Her voice has clarity and resonance, and her acting shows great promise.
So, if you want to entertain the kids with a colourful and noisy night out, then take them to Peter Pan, they’ll go home happy and so will you.