Headlining the Richmond panto Peter Pan this year is Henry Winkler, best known to most as the Fonz from Happy Days. With only two specific references to this cult show - a joke made by Philip Scutt who plays the wonderfully camp Roger the Cabin Boy and a lusty rendition of the theme tune sung by the chorus - this production does well not to play too heavily on this connection.
Winkler's Hook is more effete than villainous and while he gives an enjoyable performance, particularly in his interactions with his second in command Smee (Dermot Canavan), the boos and hisses from the audience would have been more vigorous had Winkler been rather more wicked. Audience interaction however is not in short supply and there's lots of "he's behind yous", thanks to a full costumed crocodile who stands on both feet and looms effectively; a dying Tinkerbell (but of course we believe in fairies); and our encouragement of Smee as he loses faith in being a pirate.
Comedy for the parents is provided in large part by Scutt's Roger who replaces the panto Dame and is great as he a capers across the stage and attempts to become the events manager ("bingo on the bridge at 5pm") of the pirate ship. Carrying the show for the little ones are Peter Pan (Jeremy Legat) and Wendy (Victoria Tyrrell) who give solid performances. The set and costumes are, as they should be for a panto, bright, sparkly and effective while the choerography is servicable if not inspired.
Canavan comes into his own when he chats with some of the children from the audience at the end. He is utterly charming and a wonderfully reassuring prescence. It's a good way to round-off the show and while this pantomime does nothing unusual or inventive it's a good bit of holiday fun for the family.
Peter Pan continues at Richmond Theatre until 12 January