Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure

Visiting the theatre is always a magical occasion. Meeting the characters and being whisked into their world is enchanting, but it doesn't get better than Peter Pan taking you to Neverland, as I was lucky enough to experience at Winter Gardens Blackpool.

I've grown up hearing the classic tale and seeing the animated and live action films, but seeing so many children watching wide eyed and experiencing the adventure for the first time made the evening more magical. It will be a memory that they will cherish forever, and the cast and crew guaranteed that it is a wonderful one. 

wendy, john, michael, and the lost boys in warrior poses

The first element that gripped my attention was the set, designed by Jessica Curtis. A huge tipi design covered the stage, drawing us in to the world of child's play and make believe, which was reinforced by a single wooden archway that the characters used to build Peter's den and Hook's ship. Even the sheets hung around the tipi had been designed to show silhouettes of the cast and puppets and serve as part of the story. The set was innovative and well thought out, and really impressed me.

 For me, the stars of the cast were not actually the starring roles, but the ensemble, who switched between staff in the Darling house, pirates, lost boys, and mermaids seamlessly. They emphasised their characters clearly enough to amuse the audience and show contrast between the roles, but did not overact, and performed each section with high energy and dedication. Gracie Lai and Lori McLare were particularly valuable members of the cast and really stood out for me.

jennifer ellison as captain hook, in tricorner hat and burgundy tunic
smee and the pirates stand in the ship made from the wooden arch

The pirates were led by Jennifer Ellison as Captain Hook, and Scott Gallagher as her trusty sidekick, Smee, who brought clean comedy to the production. I really enjoyed Ellison's performance, as she truly appeared to enjoy every minute on stage, using exaggerated facial expressions and gestures to come across as a silly villain rather than menacing, which was appropriate for the young children present.

jake quickenden as peter pan, in white shirt and green waistcoat

Peter himself was played by Jake Quickenden, and aside from hearing his name tied to I'm A Celebrity I didn't actually know what his background was. The moment he sang the first notes I knew he was a singer. His acting was a little shaky but his strong voice more than made up for it, and was one of the highlights of the performance. I also wasn't overly impressed by Grace Osborn's portrayal of Wendy, as I felt her RP accent was too strong for the young character, and impeded what was otherwise a beautiful voice.

However, she did very well to demonstrate Wendy's bossy nature, and worked alongside Elliot Clay and Robbie Curran as John and Michael to create believable siblings. RP accent aside, I particularly enjoyed their harmonies in Home. Rather than writing new songs the creative team used a variety of pop songs, including Katy Perry, Madness, and Bruno Mars to illustrate moods and feelings, and had audience members of all ages singing and dancing along.

wendy and the lost boys sit in the den as she tells them a story

Technically speaking, the show was a triumph, with the set, lighting, and movement direction tying together to fly the audience from a safe bedroom to a cosy den, from mermaid lagoon to rocking pirate ship. Every moment was exciting, and the stage technology was tailored beautifully to bring maximum magic to the story without overpowering the themes of love and loyalty unfolding onstage.

It was clear to me that the production team had carefully considered how to make Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure enjoyable for every age. The performance was so varied, fast paced and engaging that the children in the audience stayed interested and sang and danced along, while the more touching scenes were relevant to older children and parents. It is a perfect production to get the whole family into the Christmas spirit, and a wonderfully well done adaptation of J.M. Barrie's classic tale.

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure runs until Sunday 7th January 2018 at Winter Gardens Blackpool. I received tickets in exchange for review, for more information see my disclaimer. Photographs are property of Winter Gardens Blackpool and used with permission. 



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