Many adaptation of Peter Pan have taken place, as have plays and films set around the familiar narrative, but this is the first musical version I have seen, I went with a genuine excitement, unfortunately I left disappointed.
Make Believe Productions brings us The Return of Neverland. Neverland hasn't been the same since Wendy left, the magic has gone and all the characters we know so well are meanly exciting. Wendy herself has grown up and has children of her own, but she has not forgotten the magical land of her childhood and constantly tells stories of her adventures. But a malevolent force is at work, they will not be overlooked any longer.
This musical was the creation of Joshua Davies and Josephine Sherlock, with music by Luke Barret. On the whole the music is well -written, evoking the right mood and tone throughout. The songs however, are a little heavy on exposition, but the recurring themes are nicely placed and the harmonic parts are very powerful, especially the finale of the first act, ‘From the shadows’, beautifully performed by Calum Macgregor (Peter Pan), Samantha Hill (Jane), Josephine Sherlock (Tinkerbell) and Hannah Gallimore (Anadeia).
In fact the whole cast sang extremely well, with James Humphreys (Ralph/Hook) creating a great character performance along with Chris Daley (Smee), Sophie Farrell (Wendy/Slightly), Lauren Bell (Tootles) and Rivkah Goldberg (Nibs).
The whole cast created great characters, some being slightly clichéd, but this is Peter Pan and you have to maintain certain recognisable traits. At times it almost veered into pantomime, but with a much darker and more interesting edge.
The set and costume design were really good too, I especially liked the use of lighting in the trees. In fact, many of lighting effects were very effective but…and this is one of the things that distracted me throughout the performance; the general lighting was not good. There were times when some of the actors were in half-light, or the wrong light and, this is even worse, there were conversational pieces when the shadow of a character obscured the performance of the other actor or actors! This was really disappointing for an opening night. The actors were really trying to connect with the audience but the light issues meant that, at times, I could see their features clearly at all.
The other major distraction was the sound. The music was played via a recording and all the actors had headset microphones. There were times when the music was far too loud, causing me and other audience members to wince and cover our ears. On other occasions the mix of vocal and accompaniment were imbalanced, causing the lyrics to be lost.
I was really looking forward to tonight’s performance but I found myself squirming in my seat and I was actually relieved when I was able to leave. It was the opening night and the show runs until Friday, I hope these issues are rectified so that the actor’s performances can truly shine.
Reviewer: Alan Harbottle
Reviewed: 8th June 2016
North West End Rating: ★★