BWW REVIEW: Pantomime Returns To Sydney with THE ADVENTURES OF PETER PAN AND TINKER BELL in RETURN TO PANTOLAND
Friday 7th July 2017, 7:30pm, State Theatre Sydney
Bonnie Lythgoe's (Producer and Director) production of THE ADVENTURES OF PETER PAN AND TINKER BELL in RETURN TO PANTOLAND continues what is becoming a Sydney Winter tradition of Pantomime performances. Bringing live theatre to children in an accessible and inviting manner whilst reviving the English Tradition in the antipodes, the heart-warming tale of friendship, adventure and believing in your dreams comes to life with comedy, music and a touch of magic.
In her fourth year of producing Pantomimes for Australian audiences, Lythgoe has altered the formula to incorporate more musical theatre performers and professional singers rather than B and C grade celebrities making for a much more polished performance. Musical theatre stalwart and reality television villain Todd McKenney is a perfect fit for the stern Mr Darling and the deliciously high camp Captain Hook as his solid vocals and dancing are blended with his humour that throws in references to his body of work, much to the delight of the adults in the room. He has a fabulous comic timing and ability to react to the unexpected audience reactions along with an unabashed admission of the challenges that arise out of the short two week rehearsal period.
Regulars of the Musical Theatre stage, Tim Maddren, Jamie Hadwen and Katrina Retallick take on the roles of Peter Pan, Tinker Bell and Mrs Darling/Mimi the Magic Mermaid respectively. Maddren, who will also be familiar to fans of Hi-5, infuses that confidence required into his portrayal of Peter whilst still expressing the overblown expression synonymous with pantomime. Hadwen presents a sweet, slightly sassy Tinker Bell in an expression reminiscent of her role in Hayes Theatre's XANADU-THE MUSICAL where she played the roller-skating goddess Kira. The standout performances however come from Retallick as she creates two very different characters in the endearing Mrs Darling with a softness that echoes the mother's memories of the adventures of youth and the contrasting brash Mimi the Magic Mermaid where she draws on Kath and Kim for inspiration.
UK pantomime regular, comedian, musician and actor Kevin Orkian returns to Sydney for another season with Lythgoe's pantomimes to take on the role of Smee, the comic foil. Orkian demonstrates a commitment to the physicality of the role whilst ensuring the formula of pantomime is maintained with an obvious precision of the physical gags. Australian pop singer, famous for group "Girlfriend" in the early 90's, Robyn Loau presents a level headed Tiger Lilly whilst relative newcomer Ksenia Zofi steps into the role of Wendy.
Whilst much of the vocals are a little unsteady and not really supported by appropriate sound design which was often far to overpowering, McKenney and Retallick's fabulous vocals were a relief, capturing the energy, emotion whilst still maintaining a consistent level of musicality. Having heard Hadwen and Maddren in other performances, the reviewer does suspect sound tech issues may have contributed to their inconsistency and Tiger Lilly and Wendy's solos were not appropriately adapted for the performers voices.
The male ensemble of sailors was brilliant in their presentation of four distinct characters with sound vocals and precise physicality. The break dancing Lost boys were energetic and enthusiastic in their equally individual expressions and BWWSydney hopes that the injured performer makes a quick recovery.
It is noted however that Lythgoe missed a huge opportunity to present the adult women's ensemble in a more empowering expression. The trio backing Tiger Lilly as the warrior girls, supporting Captain Hook's sailors as wenches and accompanying Mimi as mermaids are purely eye candy for the adult males in the audience as they gyrated and high kicked in a style more suited to a Kings Cross nightclub than a family oriented pantomime. Whilst the male ensembles were allowed to create their own characters and are not sexualised apart from a brief flash of abs, and the core females are portrayed for their characters not how much flesh they can show, the three dancers are cookie cutter copies presented without any indication of individual personalities. In an era when we are trying to teach children, particularly girls, that they are more than just looks, it is highly disappointing that Lythgoe, a successful woman, had opted to take a huge step back in her portrayal of women.
Aside from the sound issues and cringe worthy gender stereotyping, the five year old accompanying the reviewer did find THE ADVENTURES OF PETER PAN AND TINKER BELL in RETURN TO PANTOLAND to be an enjoyable and entertaining evening, being captivated by the magic and feeling the range of emotion from joy and happiness to sadness and a touch of fear when Captain Hook appeared.
State Theatre Sydney
7 July - 16 July 2017
Comedy Theatre Melbourne
21 July - 30 July 2017