Kelly Holiff as Captain Hook and her band of scallywags in Neptune Theatre’s send-up of Peter Pan to Jan. 11. (Stoo Metz)
Neptune Theatre’s already-extended Peter Pan is a rollicking, musical comedy of high energy, a lot of silliness and a dazzling array of cultural references.
The two-hour, 30-minute show, written and directed by British-born Jeremy Webb, is a Christmas pantomime leaping off from J.M. Barrie’s classic.
It’s good to know the story before flying to Never-You-Mind-Land because this high-spirited version goes less for detailed narrative and more for comedy and belt-it-out, dance-it-up rock and pop songs.
With its fast pace, broad strokes, audience interaction and special effects, Peter Pan is great for children – for the little girls who want to be Tinkerbell and for the little boys who want to be pirates.
The show is like an action-adventure movie but maintains its magic in the flying and in the beautiful, black-and-white design of the Darlings’ nursery with its view to the starry night sky. Nana the dog, operated and barked by Ryan Wilson, is wonderful.
In keeping with today’s ethos, Webb has a diverse cast in ethnicity and gender and the female leads dominate. Kelly Holiff, new to Neptune, steals the show as Captain Hook, a pirate diva obsessed with celebrity stardom.
This Hook is a petulant narcissist who loves to strut and sing for her crew. She is Beyoncé in black leather and a glittering, blue, gauzy skirt with a hook for a hand that can become a microphone. Holiff has an excellent, soaring, powerful voice as well as excellent comic command and timing.
Becca Guilderson, a step-sister in last year’s Cinderella, is a theatrical match for Hook as Tink. She is a British steampunk fairy who doesn’t hide her love for Pan and her antipathy for Wendy. A strong, confident and lovable character, this creature is several tosses of pixie dust away from the confectionary Disney type.
Becca Guilderson as Tink with Brandon Antonio as Peter Pan. (Stoo Metz)
Other standouts in this large ensemble cast include Julie Lumsden, a sensitive Wendy with a lovely shadowy voice; Brandon Antonio, remarkable in his energy, zest and athletic dancer’s grace as Peter Pan; Ryan Rogerson as the put-upon, most pirate-y of pirates, Smee; Joseph Zita as the conflicted Darling sibling John, who joins the pirates while still clutching his teddy bear, and Jeremy Legat as Michael whose “what the what?” approach to this adventure is very funny.
While Michael is pinioned in his British nightie and night cap, the Lost Boys are a wild diverse and stylistic blend in clothing, hair colour and gender. The pirates are also an entertaining mix of types with a Scotsman, a bar wench, a female warrior and a Hulk Hogan type.
Brandon Antonio as Peter Pan with the Lost Boys in a scene choreographed by Stephanie Graham. (Stoo Metz)
Peter Pan sparkles with Stephanie Graham’s superb and demanding choreography, Webb’s pacing and positioning and comic drive, and a beautiful, poppy visual design in set (Tamara Marie Kucheran), costumes (Helena Marriott) and lights (Vicky Williams).
Musical director Lisa St. Clair works with a tight, four-piece band playing a mix of East Coast contemporary song and pop and rock classics, which are affirmative in their messages and often anthemic.
Webb’s wonderful, dizzingly-dense pastiche of verbal and musical pop culture references starts to get repetitive only towards the end. There is one song too many as audiences know the show is building towards its final battle, a battle they know Peter Pan will win.
Peter Pan’s extension is selling fast with a run at Neptune Theatre’s Fountain Hall to Jan. 11, Tuesdays to Sundays, 7:30 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinees Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $30 to $87. Jan. 2, 7:30 p.m., is a relaxed performance, Jan. 5, 7:30 p.m., is pay-what-you-can; Jan. 11, 2 p.m., is an ASL show. There are extra matinees Dec. 24, 26 and 31. (https://www.neptunetheatre.com/box-office/neptune-shows/2019-2020-season)
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