Monday, 26 October 2015

Peter Pan - A Musical Adventure

Adelphi Theatre, London


****

Music & lyrics by George Stiles & Anthony Drewe
Directed by Jonathan Butterell


Jenna Russell and Evelyn Hoskins

There have been many interpretations of J M Barrie's Peter Pan story but this musical version by George Stiles & Anthony Drewe, with book by Willis Hall, deserves a place of note. The tale of the boy who doesn't want to grow up and the three young Darling children of Bloomsbury he takes on an adventure to Neverland, has a charm which beguiles children and adults alike.

Stiles & Drewe (Honk!, Just So, Betty Blue Eyes) premiered Peter Pan in 1999. This concert version of the full production, imaginatively staged by Jonathan Butterell, worked well, with the actors and singers in front of a full orchestra on stage. Very often in concert productions, the larger group numbers can suffer from their lack of space and set; not so in this case. Astute choreography and spot-on delivery made a highlight of The Lost Boys Gang, a seriously catchy tune performed with gusto by the talented ensemble of Lost Boys.

George Stiles has written some enchanting melodies within a rich score, Never Land and There's Always Tomorrow having a distinctly timeless quality. In the hands of Jenna Russell, the show opened with accomplished vocals in Just Beyond The Stars, Miss Russell giving every phrase meaning; a skill she brings so effortlessly to her work. She imbues Mrs Darling with a warmth and the relationship between her and her husband Mr Darling (Bradley Walsh who also plays Captain Hook) seemed real, setting the tone for the evening. The casting of the three Darling children was spot on. Toby Nash and John McCrae as Michael & John were both funny, with huge spirit and not a hint of wimp about either of them.

However, Evelyn Hoskins as Wendy was a revelation. Her solo, Who Will Mother Me? was a show stopper, delivered beautifully. Miss Hoskins' voice soared within the Adelphi Theatre, her interpretation of the eldest Darling child a delight to watch. 

The cleverness of Anthony Drewe's lyrics is particularly apparent in the pirate songs. Bradley Walsh relished playing Captain Hook, making Murder For a Pirate with a Heart a hilarious musical soliloquy. His closing of Act 1 was terrific. Walsh was admirably supported by pirate crew of imaginative actors, each creating a unique character that you could "see" without them having costume or props. Particular note to Steve Elias and John Barr for their subtle nuances and physical precision that was both captivating and hilarious.

Sheila Hancock added gravitas as the story teller, holding the audience in the palm of her hand at the end of the show when revealing she is, in fact, Wendy, the wide eyed child now older, having lived her life fully, without fear. Peter's break down at this realisation at the close of the show was a satisfying twist to a familiar story.

The eponymous role was played with great energy by Ray Quinn. Quinn's interpretation of Pan was assured but a touch heavy handed at times, lacking innocence. However, his personal charm worked well for what is a tough role.

David Shrubsole conducted with aplomb and the finale, when orchestra, actors, children and choir joined together, a little bit of magic was cast within the Adelphi Theatre.


Guest reviewer: Andy Bee 

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