Review by CJ
Todd McKenney, Tim Maddren, Robyn Loau, Katrina Retallick, Jaime Hadwen, Kev Orkian, Ksenia Zofi, Ric Pragnell, Matthew Geronimi, Michael Stone, Jay Johns, Samuel Richardson, Brandon Ware, Justin Rive, Michael Francisco
The Comedy Theatre (Melbourne, Australia)
150 minutes (including intermission)
The story of Peter Pan (Maddren) and Tinker Bell’s (Hadwen) journeys with Wendy (Zofi), John and Michael Darling in Neverland. They meet Tiger Lily (Loau), fight Captain Hook (McKenney) and think all of the happy thoughts that their hearts desire.
This show was amazing. I had never been to a pantomime performance before so I didn’t know what to expect, but being a show that was what I call “Disney adjacent”, I was very excited.
Early in the show, Smee (Orkian) appears onstage and breaks the fourth wall to tell us all when to boo, when to hiss and how to return his greetings. Then it’s on.
There is a lot of breaking the fourth wall in the show, most often by Peter Pan, Smee or Captain Hook. The humour involved in the fourth wall breaks often comes from the actors improvising to shouts from children in the audience or the nudge-nudge-wink-wink jokes aimed at the adults (“Ask mummy and daddy to explain that on the car ride home”). This includes friendly jabs at McKenney and Maddren’s past careers on Dancing with the Stars and Hi-5 respectively.
The costumes are gorgeously bright and gaudy. from Captain Hook’s feathered hat to Tinker Bell’s sparkly roller-skates, the costumes provide a delightful visual aspect to the show.
The sets are often understated in The Adventures of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell in Return to PantoLand but they don’t need to be particularly over the top and are all well produced. The beautiful costumes, incredible lighting and stellar cast performances shine so brightly that overdone sets would simply get in the way or be ignored.
There are so many great performers but in amongst those, some actors did manage to give stand out performances. Todd McKenney is simply fabulous as Captain Hook. The villain’s musical numbers are some of the show’s highlights and McKenney pulls them off remarkably. His improvisational skills were a wonder to see and his energy contagious.
Jaime Hadwen was a gorgeous Tinker Bell who nailed the jealousy and fierce loyalty (despite a small slip up — to err is fairy?) of the character all while performing flawlessly on roller-skates. As Peter Pan, Maddren captured the childlike selfishness, wonder and stubbornness that makes the character what he is. The wire work from every cast member who flew around the stage was a sight to behold.
If this were a Tony Award ceremony based purely on the actors in The Adventures of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell in Return to PantoLand though, the winner would be Kev Orkian. The British actor was a delightful host, a hilarious performer and just an all-round pleasure to watch. Orkian’s leadership of a delightful “Who’s on First” homage was just one of many, many moments that had the audience transfixed then in stitches.
The Adventures of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell in Return to PantoLand is a delightful show with magic, laughs, adventure and fun for kids, adults and kidults of all ages. I can’t wait to be front and centre for Bonnie Lythgoe Productions’ next panto — Sleeping Beauty.
“Pan, your time is nigh! Today you die!”
“To die would be an awfully big adventure.”