Left – Todd McKenney
The traditional Christmas Pantomime is a much loved institution in the United Kingdom. A rollicking mix of song, dance, fairytale and double entendre. Much of its uniqueness comes from the invitation to the audience to join in the show, boo the villain, cheer the hero and generally participate in the story. It’s also often a great chance for TV stars or B grade celebrities to tread the boards with seasoned stage professionals and experience ‘the roar of the greasepaint’ instead of the whirr of the camera for a change.
Bonnie Lythgoe follows that formula carefully in her production of The Adventures of Peter Pan & Tinker Bell, and makes the sensible choice to import comedic stage master Kev Orkian for the role of Smee. As the main link to the audience, (often known as the ‘Buttons’ character) his easy charm and considerable experience anchors this production. While I often question the need for imports, this role in Panto is a difficult one, and key to getting the whole vibe of the genre right. I felt in safe hands when he was on stage.
The other winner of the night for me is Todd McKenney as Captain Hook. It’s really fun to play a high-camp moustache-twirling villain and despite his one being drawn on, he metaphorically twirls it with vigor creating a thoroughly entertaining Hook. Full of villainy and mischief he makes a meal of his panto ‘shtik’ and looks like he is having a whale of a time.
Katrina Retallick is musical force of nature and her considerable talent and experience is obvious as she creates a lovely Mrs Darling and a somewhat kooky and ‘strine’ Mimi the mermaid. Warm and funny, she is delight to watch.
But it is the Pirate gang of four who steal the evening completely. Working wonderfully with the antics of Kev Orkian’s Smee, the pirates Matt Geronimi, Michael Stone, Rick Pragnell and Jay Johns manage not only to be incredible athletic tumblers and dancers, but funny and sexy too! No small feat combining all that, and the 12 days song at the end of the evening with them all, is a great moment.
A down side for me on opening night was that the sound mix really didn’t seem very successful. The singer’s voices were generally left exposed and sounded thin mixed against the recorded backing tracks. There are some experienced singers in this show, but they really weren’t given the chance to shine. Low registers were unbalanced and hard to hear, and only the big belt notes revealed they had any kind of voice. Much more needs to be done on the technical side to give the evening some much needed musical strength.
So while Tim Maddren of ‘Hi 5’ fame and Robyn Loau of the band ‘Girlfriend’ turned in really quite charming acting performances as Peter and Tiger Lilly, their vocals often faltered unexpectedly in the softer moments, although it may not have been all their fault.
Newcomer Ksenia Zofi as Wendy seemed to escape this, and brought a lovely calm to her character and a much needed vocal power when singing.
On the whole it’s a fun night out and the kids seemed to love it. The ensemble are talented, and I’m sure its gonna be a whole lot more fun when the audience is full of screaming kids and not stuffy opening nighters. The production values are generally high and the special effects are solid with perhaps the exception of a rather unimpressive crocodile. Note to Ms Lythgoe – the crocodile is actually meant to eat Hook! But despite it being frequently referred to in the show, maybe that’s just too scary for kids.
Bonnie Lythgoe Productions presents
THE ADVENTURES OF PETER PAN & TINKER BELL
Director Bonnie Lythgoe
Venue: State Theatre, 49 Market Street, Sydney
Dates: 7 - 16 July
Tickets: $62.75 – $77.75 (Family $281.00)
Bookings: ticketmaster.com.au | 1300 139 588
Venue: Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Dates: 21 – 30 July
Tickets: $79.95 – $59.95
Bookings: ticketmaster.com.au | 1300 11 10 11