Review: Peter Pan The Musical, Stage Door Company, Windmill Theatre, Littlehampton
Peter Pan , like The Wizard of Oz and several other children’s classics , begins and ends with scenes set in the everyday ‘real’ world – but in between , it is packed with scenes belonging to a vivid and colourful children’s world of imagination and adventure , here featuring pirates , mermaids , native Indians , a clock-swallowing crocodile and much else besides .
This version , directed by Andrea White and Emma Millard , kicks off with lively music played by Michael Wooldridge ( one keyboard sounding like a full band ) and John Symes ( percussion ) and throughout , those two keep up the pace with largely jolly and in the best sense of the word ‘predictable’ songs : the kind you could almost hum along to without having heard them before .
The various settings are ingeniously done by clever , moving special-effects projections ( Steve Gallant ) so that we see the interior of the Darling house , complete with magically opening windows , then the children in flight , a flooding lake , the sea , the deck of the pirate ship , the crocodile and much more . This technology allows for rapid switches of location without clunky scene-changes or overtaxing the audience’s imagination as to what might be on the relatively bare stage .
The directors’ decision to have adult actors play Peter Pan ( Jade Berry ) and Wendy (Siobhana Healy ) was probably a wise one in terms of all that those two big roles have to carry in terms of action and song , though because many of the lost children were very young indeed ( and therefore relatively small ) , it was sometimes a bit of a stretch to see Peter as one of their equals , albeit their leader .
With a total cast of 44 , it’s impossible to mention too many by name – but there were strong central performances from mother-and-daughter team Elana and Siobhana Healy , playing Mr. Darling/Captain Hook and Wendy respectively , SJ Haines as Mrs Darling , Graham Oakford as the native chief and little Ruby Elsworth as a physically expressive if wordless Tinkerbell-on-heelies . Jade Berry as Peter Pan is a confident , assured performer with a good , strong voice and she delivered the role with energy and style if occasionally a bit restlessly .
The children , some as young as six , I believe , were well-drilled and acted and sang as if they meant it . In some numbers , I could have wished for a bit more song-choreography but perhaps the directors’ choice was a wise one ? : better to have them still and delivering the songs than to attempt something more physically ambitious and risk chaos !
But not to quibble : this was essentially an enjoyable , good-natured , warm-hearted community-style show – a welcome escape into a world of childlike imagination on a day when the ‘real’ world was reeling from the news of the latest violent attacks on London Bridge ….