Review: Peter Pan (Churchill Theatre, Bromley)
Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood impresses in the role of Hook
With his reputation for sour-faced, scathing put-downs on Strictly Come Dancing, Craig Revel Horwood is a shoo-in for the part of Captain Hook, and this is a revival of a role which, it has to be said, suits him down to the ground.
He's louche, laconic and every bit as dastardly as everyone hopes he will be – and a much funnier and more accomplished actor and singer than they may have expected. With frock coats and cascading curls, his Hook has the look of a piratical Charles II, with a dash of Adam Ant thrown in. He's in fine voice, duetting a sinuously menacing version of "You're Just Too Good to be True" with Mimi the Magical Mermaid (the charming Rachel Spry), and delivering a showstopping version of "My Way" while sprawled on the stage.
Elsewhere on the Jolly Roger, a past life as a holiday-club entertainer pays rich dividends for impressionist Paul Burling, who is a twinkly-eyed, ad-libbing and crowd-pleasing Mr Smee. A former Britain's Got Talent finalist, he is also undoubtedly the master of ceremonies, giving the show the drive and rock-solid comedy backbone every pantomime needs. As well as jokes, vocal sound effects and an array of impressions from Harry Hill to Scooby Doo, Burling also possesses the vital skill of persuading adults (as well as their kids) to wave their hands and join in enthusiastically with songs like "Old MacDonald Had a Farm". No mean feat.
While the older cast all look very much at home, there's not quite enough emotional connection between some of the younger members, and even the flying lacks some of the enchantment that should accompany this stage miracle.
But Wendy is played with spirit and sweetness by Mikaela Newton, and if the dancers don't seem especially challenged by director Barbara Evans' choreography, they're certainly full of energy – and the children from the Laura Bruce Dance Academy are uniformly adorable.
The musical direction of the show is outstanding, and Revel Horwood was quite right to call for appreciation for the orchestra which belted through the score with wonderful energy and precision under Steve Clark.
While the first half doesn't quite soar, the second half is much brighter and livelier, containing some of the best set pieces, and music, of the show. With flying, fireworks and a frightful villain, Evans' pantomime ticks all the boxes for a fun family Christmas treat.
Peter Pan runs at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley until 7 January 2017.