Peter Pan is perfect panto fun in Milton Keynes this Christmas
Review: Peter Pan at The Chrysalis Theatre, Milton Keynes
Look out for the second star on the right, then go straight on 'til morning and you'll arrive at Milton Keynes in time to enjoy Peter Pan at The Chrysalis Theatre, writes Alan Wooding.
Along the way you'll spot some familiar and not-so-familiar characters who play out this popular festive pantomime, based on J M Barrie's original story and specially scripted and directed by Steven Gordon-Wilson.
It features a loveable Wendy, the dastardly Captain Hook, a glittering fairy Tinker Bell, plus Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, and surprisingly… Mr Blobby! Yes, that bright pink, yellow spotted character with those googly green eyes has come out of retirement to cause more chaos and mayhem.
Blobby has an electronically-enhanced voice which utters just one word... "Blobby!" Having proved so popular on TV in the early 1990s, Mr Blobby was synonymous with Noel Edmonds' House Party and Peter Pan is his first panto appearance since 2004, so where's he been hiding?
Packed with comical storytelling and silliness, last night's version of Peter Pan (Monday, Dec 6th) – which comes courtesy of 1702 Productions Ltd – is a pantomime which provides plenty of fun and laughter for both adults and children alike.
In the title role of Peter Pan is professional dancer, singer, actress and the show's choreographer Lucy-Rose Rollason, who also has her own stage school in rural Norfolk. First appearing by flying high above the stage attached to a wire, Lucy also displayed her acrobatic skills with numerous somersaults, yet still managed to sing.
Equally talented is Steve Hewlett, a former Britain’s Got Talent finalist. Ventriloquist Steve plays an authentic Mr Smee and is accompanied by his trusty sidekick and his right-hand-man, puppet Arthur Lager, whose quips and one-liners made him a hilarious Grandad Smee. Steve was also great with young children from the audience in the traditional 'Old MacDonald' sequence shortly before the finale, while he also got the audience shouting out whenever he appeared.
Playing the evil Captain Hook is former television Egghead and professional quizzer, Connagh Joseph 'CJ' de Mooi. He completed the headline cast by playing the dastardly Captain Hook and he really revelled in the character and especially with all those boos… and surprisingly he hasn't got a bad voice either!
The Darling children, Wendy (Cara Bo), John and Michael, are swept away to Neverland after Tinker Bell (Katie Phizacklea) applies some fairy dust while the role of shipmate Starkey belonged to popular children’s entertainer, Kev Stevens, who performed just a single magic trick when I'm sure he's got a bigger repertoire. In fact, Kev and Lucy-Rose come to the production as students of the British Pantomime Academy, an organisation set up and run by MK pantomime favourite, Kev Orkian.
However for me the star of the show was Luke Byeford, who had numerous costume changes as Mrs Smee, the traditional pantomime dame. With a great voice, his sexy Copacabana number was surrounded by the Lost Boys, all youngsters from Team Smee and members of The Rebecca Marie Academy of Dance.
Musically we were taken from Singin' In The Rain, to Hairspray's catchy Can't Stop The Beat, The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow from Annie and the recent catchy chart-topping Wellermansea shanty, which was reprised for the finale.
Other key members of the cast were Jono Andrews as Goliath, who was accompanied by the Strictly Come Dancing theme each time he appeared, while Eveey Ruth played Nancy who was also responsible for bringing along her dog Pasha, Captain Hook's ship's dog, named Fish.
There were a few problems with the sound and especially Lillia Grace's microphone. Her voice sometimes disappeared in her role as Tiger Lily, one of Peter's trusty companions.
Being picky, the standard 'If I Were Not Upon The Stage' skit needed a bit more rehearsal time, while if Blobby's knockabout antics continue in the same vein, then a permanent set repairer might be needed. Meanwhile the four principal dancers didn't need to look so serious, after all, they're in a happy family Pan-tomime!
Unlike many pantos, the classic story of the boy who never grows up is not lost and remained close to the original. The story of Peter Pan certainly has everything – aerial flying, real animals, a celebrity headline cast and, of course, a snappy crocodile – while it's all delivered at an affordable price.
Peter Pan runs for approximately 2 hours 30 minutes and plays The Chrysalis Theatre twice daily (except Tuesdays) until Sunday, January 2, 2022.
For tickets please see 1702 Production's dedicated theatre website at https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/whats-on/milton-keynes/the-chrysalis-theatre/peter-pan/e-zjmddo?fbclid=IwAR1NQAYJuY-eXZX_ad0XN0Q2_LWzF_Or8iYcOsfMkbpLosYCOR0mgdbRVGc