10 December 2001 WOS Rating: Average Reader Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews The classic JM Barrie children's story about the boy who wouldn't grow up has been a firm favourite for generations, in book, play and pantomime form. But few have seen the full-blown musical version, written in the mid-1950s, with music by Mark Charlap and Jule Styne, lyrics by Caroline Leigh, Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
Kudos to Leicester Haymarket then, which this year turns the evergreen story into festive entertainment guaranteed to warm even the coldest hearts. Director
Paul Kerryson and choreographer David Needham have turned what, on paper at least, is a fairly lame and old-fashioned musical with pleasant rather than memorable songs, into an enchanting, magical, entertaining piece of theatre.
A set with a huge night sky as its main backdrop, courtesy of designer Kentaur, ensures that wires can rarely be seen when Peter or the children are flying, and the result is unusually effective.
Gareth Howard's nine-piece orchestra plays up a storm, although it is unfortunate that the sound, designed by Scott George, is poorly balanced so, as each song reaches its crescendo, the hard-working singer just becomes drowned out.
But with a generally excellent company, there's enough magic to compensate.
Simon Greiff is a likeable and chipper Peter Pan, cocky but cheery, while Veronica Hart is a vocal triumph as Wendy.
Craig Purnell's dashing and dastardly Captain Hook oozes comical smarm and sneering nastiness while proving hugely entertaining - the ultimate antidote to Pan's saccharine charm. And Greg Pichery is a marvellous snivelling Smee, leading the troupe of Pirates at the Captain's command (watch out too for excellent work from pirate dancer Adam Woodhouse, who doubles up as a fetching Nanna the dog).
David Needham's choreography turns even the most insipid of songs into truly enjoyable numbers - the Captain Hook waltz and the Wendy House song are my particular favourites, although the six-minute tribal number brings the house down in act two.
It's a brilliant transformation from plodding age-old story to 21st century pacy musical, packed with enough innocence to remind even the most cynical that sometimes we should all refuse to grow up.
- Elizabeth Ferrie
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