book by Allan Knee lyrics by Michael Korie music by Scott Frankel.
Curve Theatre 60 Rutland Street LE1 1SB To 18 October 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed 2.15pm.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 0116 242 3595.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 October.
Attractive musical where, for all the compromises with fact, there’s a fascination in seeing a masterpiece take shape.
“Wisdom poured out of him like venom from a cobra,” says Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of theatre critic Maximilian Blunt. Anyone spitting venom round Leicester’s Curve would probably have been putting their life at risk, as a near-capacity, non-press night, audience loudly applauded the first act, and outright cheered the overall conclusion.
This new musical of Harvey Weinstein’s 2004 film about the creation of Peter Pan knows how to transport audiences at its climaxes. Barrie’s slow-assembled imaginative creation bursts forth with a pirate ship, Blunt reborn as Hook, sailing towards the stalls, while the show finally has its characters soaring into picture-book land.
Such scenic energy outplays a score and lyrics which, if more likely to please than delight, are enjoyable and literate.
There’s something over-neat in basing Hook on someone called Blunt, even if the critic jabs a hook-handled brolly around when suggesting Barrie toughen-up his material. Later, the Captain and his men crawl – or leap – choreographically from the woodwork chez Barrie, insisting Hook triumph in the play.
That’s a rare voyage into Barrie’s consciousness, though there are arresting moments, as when the storytelling of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, whose sons fascinated Barrie and inspired Peter Pan, grips her boys and a team of England’s greatest artists (and worst cricketers).
The musical hardly explores the complexity of the writer’s relations with the family as did Andrew Birkin’s 1978 TV trilogy The Lost Boys built around Ian Holm’s introspective Barrie. That, though, is over twice the length, without any songs.
Neverland plays fast-and-loose with facts, killing off the boys’ father before the action opens, allowing Barrie’s relation to focus on Sylvia, rather than his fascination with the boys. It takes a lot of atmosphere for her ‘stairway to heaven’ departure not to seem over-schmaltzed. Its autumnal tones are part of designer Scott Pask’s picture-book colours, enhanced by Neil Austin’s lighting.
Rosalie Craig’s Sylvia is pitch-perfect, as are her confidently-played sons, and Julian Ovenden’s clean-cut Barrie. Even when spontaneously abandoned by his dog Porthos (surprising, given the traditional role of St Bernards) his affability was unshaken, symptomatic of the whole amiable evening.
J M Barrie: Julian Ovenden.
Sylvia Llewelyn Davies: Rosalie Craig.
Maximilian Blunt/Hook: Oliver Boot.
P G Wodehouse: Norman Bowman.
Mary Barrie: Clare Foster.
Peter Pan: Michelle Francis.
Lord Griffin: Edward Lewisd French.
Mermaid: Ashley Hale.
Scheherazade: Frankie Jenna.
Mother: Julie Jupp.
Arthur Conan Doyle: Martin Ledwith.
Elliot: Stuart Neal.
Sally: Zoe Rainey.
Mrs du Maurier: Liz Robertson.
G K Chesterton: Gary Watson.
Jerome K Jerome: Stephen Webb.
Edward Elgar: Matt Wilman.
Peter Llewelyn Davies: Theo Fewell/Luke James/Harry Folden.
Michael Llewelyn Davies: Worrall Courtney/Jon Joe Flynn/Morgan Heath/Jamieson Hughes.
George Llewelyn Davies: Connor Phillips/Josh Swinney/Corey Wickenden.
Jack Llewelyn Davies: Connor Fitzgerald/Harrisson Slater/Garrett Tennant.
David: James Scudamore.
Porthos: Champion Poolsway Yogi Bear/Porthos.
Director/Choreographer: Rob Ashford.
Children’s Director: Catie Marie Entwistle.
Designer: Scott Pask.
Lighting: Neil Austin.
Sound: Nick Lidster, Terry Jardine.
Dance arrangements: David Chase.
Vocal arrangements: Scott Frankel.
Musical Director: David Charles Abell.
Projections: Jon Driscoll, Gemma Carrington.
Costume: Paul wills.
Vocal coach: Seann Alderking.
Dance Captains: Edward Lewis French, Ashlet Hale.
Associate director: Pip Jordan.
Associate choreographer: Charlie Williams.