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Peter Pan - The British Musical (Stevenage, Gordon Craig Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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 Enterprising theatres have been realising that the school Easter and summer holiday periods offer them the chance to stage a larger-scale family-oriented show with more originality than the bought-in traditional pantomime of the Christmas season. If local children, youth theatre members looking forward to a later career combined with professional performers and creative team members who want to try something out of their usual comfort zone can be involved, so much the better.

This Easter holiday Peter Pan has set sail in Stevenage. This is the Piers Chater-Robinson musical version staged by Catherine Lomax with Phil Dennis in charge of a seven-piece band. It's quite an elaborate production with well-managed flying and projection sequences and a flexible set by Andy Newall. Unlike some musical adaptations, this one sticks closely to the original stage version of J M Barrie's tale.

Lomax is well served by her cast, led by Amy Bird's Peter, who catches just the right blend of amorally selfish androgyny and child-like playfulness. Grace Lewis' Wendy is a teenager on the cusp of maturity, an older sister who knows right from wrong but can still dream of what exciting marvels might exist outside her domestic world. The Darlings are David Haydn and Sarah Lawn with Martyn Payne as a mob-capped Nana and a snapping livid green crocodile.

The crocodile, of course, is in ticking pursuit of Captain Hook. Daniel Page relishes every nuance of the villain's show-off nastiness, abetted by Matt Lee Steer's Smee. Lighting designer John Maddox has devised Tinker Bell as a laser beam, much to the delight of children in the audience. Two teams of children share the parts of the Darling brothers, the Lost Boys and the Indians with James Craven as a bespectacled John and Freddie Bourn as teddybear-hugging Michael.


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