REVIEW: Peter Pan

Justin Yang is delighted by this upbeat musical which, like its eponymous protagonist, never grows old

After a busy Michaelmas term, Peter Pan offered a welcome respite from the hard work by bringing me back to a simpler time and reminding me that there are always ways to grow up without growing old.

Settling down into my seat at Peter Pan, I was prepared for something along the lines of the 1953 Disney film — treasured, to be sure, but also predictable. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by a thoroughly energetic and modern performance with just enough differences from Disney movie to stand on its own.

Photo Credit – ADC Theatre

The set design is fantastic, transporting the audience from the Darlings’s nursery to Neverland, from the Mermaid’s Lagoon to Captain Hook’s ship through the judicious use of backdrops and enough props to support the cast without overwhelming the stage. Music, as expected, was great and energetic throughout, though occasional hiccups with the sound system detracted somewhat.  The liberal use of smoke machines, at times, was somewhat suffocating and lighting was not always used judiciously.

The acting was of an extremely high calibre, especially given how young most of the cast is. Dan Lane and Dancy Manning are incredible leads, carrying the show’s main musical numbers. Darcy, in particular, shone with a powerhouse voice, while Dan delighted the audience with his fun interpretation of the Peter Pan role. The scene in which Peter teaches the Darling children to fly brought out the best in Dan and Darcy, each capably conveying the delight and charm in learning to fly for the first time. I hope to continue seeing Dan and Darcy in future productions – they have great futures in theatre, indeed.

Of course, the show was successful in no small part due to the spectacular acting of Matt Wilkinson who played Mr. Darling and Captain Hook. Combining a zany, over-the-top dedication to villainy, an incredibly strong singing voice, and great chemistry with the entire cast, Matt was truly the pixie dust that allowed the production to soar. He particularly shone in the ridiculous musical number, “Rich Damp Cake,” in which Captain Hook outlines a plan to poison Peter Pan and the Lost Boys with a cake iced with strychnine.

Somewhat unexpectedly, Peter Pan featured some challenging choreography which was ably carried out by OJ Budak, William Bracey, and Alfie Brown. Though largely in silent roles as pirates and Indians, the three cartwheeled, somersaulted, and flipped across the stage. The three are to be commended for adding yet another dimension to the production by enhancing musical numbers with athletic prowess.

Though the script is intended for a family audience, older audience members will still find the musical charming and engaging. The lyrics, though not complex, are evocative of childhood bedtime stories and, consequently, make up in charm what they lack in sophistication.

All in all, Peter Pan was a very slick production indeed, featuring incredibly talented young actors doing exactly what they love. Fun for the entire family but also for older audiences, this musical is a perfect way to spend a holiday evening.

For those still in Cambridge, don’t miss out on a delightful evening with the cast of Peter Pan.