Peter Pan (Liverpool)
''Peter Pan'' ticks many of the boxes at the Liverpool Empire, says Carole Baldock
Is that a sword? – sorry, we've already done that one … But one of the big problems with panto is making sure familiarity breeds contentment and not contempt; it's just 5 years since the Empire's last Peter Pan, with a somewhat bewildered Fonz as Cap'n Hook.
However, this home grown production makes all the right noises and rings all the right bells, if maybe not quite as dazzling as an audience full of flashing whatsits twinkling away to distraction …
Never mind, the panto's the thing and comes complete with psychedelically bright scenery, colourful costumes (and dialogue), corny jokes, rousing renditions of popular hit music and wholehearted participation. Well, Pete Price may be mistaking his role for Grumpy rather than Roger the Cabin Boy, but he is still amazingly entertaining, and so is Louis Emerick as a misogynist Captain Hook, complete with beard as jabot.
Sadly, some of the timing goes awry: Francesca Mills is an excellent choice for the snippy Tinker Belle, but there is no audience reaction whatsoever to one narrow escape. And posh Wendy (Emma Stephens) stands little chance against Leanne Campbell's feisty Tiger Lily, especially when she switches to modern day Liver Bird.
The whole thing is held together by the hardworking efforts of Shaun Mason as a hilarious Smee and Ray Quinn, a splendid Peter Pan. As usual, a special mention to all the children involved, and for Rio Samuels, in the bit part of Nana, and the Crocodile.
So you know where to go for a wonderful night out: second star on the right, and straight on til morning. Simpler still: it's got to be the Empire.
Peter Pan is at the Liverpool Empire until 5 January.
- Carol Baldock