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
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
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.