When Christmas lights and cold weather descend on Richmond Theatre it can mean only one thing: pantomime time. This year it’s the well-loved Peter Pan, reimagined in the swashbuckling glory of pantomime. There are the dancing pirates, the walking of the plank and ‘planking’ itself, not forgetting the standard medley of Guns n’ Roses and One Direction to greet you as you take your seats. And of course, there’s Henry Winkler (OBE) – the Fonz, as he is more widely known – as the villainous Captain Hook.
J.M. Barrie’s tale is well-known and well-loved, and while the iconic characters were present in the pantomime, the essence of the story was a bit jarred. While the pantomime was all high-kicks and confetti, the magic of childhood and believing in fairies was ushered quietly into the wings. The fault of one too many reality show references, maybe.
That being said, in one word this pantomime was fun. The atmosphere was great and there was an infectious festive energy in everyone. Kids giggled and cheered. One actually shouted “I’d like to see you try!” back at the Fonz. A favourite of mine was the sword-fight between Peter Pan and Captain Hook, because of course, no epic battle is complete without the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack in the background.
Winkler as Captain Hook was one of the focal points of the show, proven by the repeated Happy Days references and the tumultuous applause. And what a fantastic villain he was. He engaged every member of the audience, child and adult alike, and perhaps one of the greatest moments of the show was when he strolled out to a revival of the Happy Days theme tune.
Throughout the cast, the level of acting and singing was strong and consistent. Donna Hines and Witney White as the mermaids delivered the standout vocal performance and Kiruna Stamell as “the Tinker Bell to challenge expectations” was great and innovative.
The true source of entertainment value, however, was the set design. Atmospheric, showy and impressive, the backdrops lit up the stage and brought the visual performance up a fair few notches. The costumes as well were fantastic and fun, perfect for a pantomime.
Yes, there were the not-so-great (and worse) moments of over-used references and tired puns. There were the questionable song choices that didn’t really fit – Tiger Lily and her tribe inexplicably singing ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry – the drawn out audience interactions, the cheap shots at humour. Yet despite it all, it was fun and mostly entertaining – from a pantomime, could you ask any more?
Peter Pan is playing Richmond Theatre until 12 January 2014. For more information and tickets, see the Richmond Theatre website.