Mix high-flying action, jaw-dropping 3D fun and brilliant performances from stars Joe Paquale and John ‘Boycie’ Challis with the classic elements of pantomime and you have the recipe for success that makes Peter Pan at Nottingham Theatre Royal a total triumph.
The atmosphere and festive anticipation could be felt among the audience, both young and old, as they took their seats for a show that will run at the venue until Sunday January 13.
And 99.9% of the crowd came away full of Christmas spirit having revelled in a brilliant extravaganza. That is apart from one woman who stormed out after having been wet during the usual firing of a super-soaker into the audience. Ooops!!
Okay, this version isn’t completely faithful to the original story by J.M.Barrie. But, in all honesty, that matters little, the major elements are there from the very start as Peter flies high onto the stage and into the bedroom of the Darling Children.
What follows is a slick, fast-paced production on which clearly no expense has been spared.
From flying to Neverland to doing battle with Captain Hook and foiling his dastardly plans, the major elements are there.
For me the acid test of the success of a panto — or any theatre production for that matter — is how quickly you are transported to another world and you forget your day-to-day struggles.
Peter Pan passes this test with flying (excuse the pun) colours and for a couple of hours your only focus is how hard you are laughing.
The sets are magnificent, from Neverland and Peter’s secret hideout to Crocodile Creek.
And watch out for a magnificent larger-than-life finale to the first half as we are introduced to the crocodile, another of Hook’s arch enemies.
The dance numbers in the hands of the ensemble are eyecatching and wouldn’t be out of place on Strictly, while the choreography of the swordplay between Peter and Hook’s hordes is tremendous.
At the outset of the second half there is a massive routine that would leave anyone out of breath. And, as with all pantomimes, the crescendo is a happy ending to send everyone home with beaming smiles.
Everything is peppered with all those slapstick panto offerings we know and love, including a slippy rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas and a tongue-twisting section that is one slip away from an expletive-laden disaster.
The undoubted centre of attention on stage is Pasquale who has the audience in stitches with his comedy timing, rude jokes and by constantly tampering with the other members of the cast.
From his floppy-woppy tiddler to an unfortunate accident with a collapsing stool, Pasquale is hilarious.
Poor old Peter, played by the superb Jack McNeill, has to come to terms with plenty of up close and personal interactions with Pasquale. How on earth he manages to complete his lines with such thigh-slapping vigour is beyond me.
Challis is suitably regal and sinister as Captain Hook, leader of the Jolly Roger, while Paul Gabriel is every bit the stereotypical pirate as Starkey.
The beautiful voice of Rosie O’Hare enhances her role as Wendy, while Lucy Evans attacks the role of the jealous Tinker Bell magnificently.
Hats off to the Theatre Royal Babes, writer Alan McHugh, director Jonny Bowle, musical supervisor Rick Coates, the orchestra and everyone else involved in what is a truly memorable festive feast of fun.
For information on shows and timings and to book your seats CLICK HERE to visit the theatre website.