What do you expect when you go and see a Panto at a large regional theatre? Great family entertainment, excellent singing and dancing, loads of laughs, a large slice of magic, and a hero you can cheer, and a villain you can hiss.
Last night we got most of that from QDOS’ Peter Pan at The Grand. And yet I, and my 7 and 9 year old co-reviewers, came away from the theatre feeling a little short-changed.
There was certainly laughs. Barry & Paul Elliot aka The Chuckle Brothers were in top form, storming through a series of set piece comic routines, the best being an X Factor spoof that sees Barry end up wearing…. Well, best not spoil the fun! But none of their routines actually had anything to do with Peter Pan…
There was certainly magic, with some well-balanced flying by the cast, and by the Chuckle’s car, in a spectacular act 1 closer. And there was certainly excellent dancing (choreography from Steven Harris) from the ensemble doubling energetically as Pirates and Indians.
So why do I feel slightly empty after the show? Because it wasn’t really Peter Pan. The script barely paid lip service to the classic story, the best sequence being when Tinkerbell (a feisty Lucy Evans) is banished by Peter Pan. There was no time to develop a relationship with Peter (an engaging Ross Carpenter), Wendy (a sweet, if rather nasal, Hannah Nicholas), and the Lost Boys hardly appeared at all.
The songs, apart from one number in act 2 for Evans, Nicholas and Kimmy Edwards (Tiger Lily), were instantly forgettable, terrible sound making the lyrics inaudible and the 5 piece live band sound anything but live. And John Altman as Captain Hook worked gamely but was never menacing enough. When he was finally dispatched into the sea, his departure hardly raised a cheer from the audience. We didn’t care.
The young cast worked hard, and the old hands demonstrated their well-worn comic skills. But the balance of the show was all wrong. When your 7 year old reaches for the programme mid-way through act 2 and starts doing the wordsearch you know the show hasn’t got all the required magic to really start the Christmas season with a sparkle. Shame, as I really liked a lot of the performers. I just wanted to see more of them. And I wanted to boo more. A lot more.
Peter Pan runs at Wolverhampton Grand until 24 January 2016.
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