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Peter Pan - Koorliny Arts Centre

Reviewed by Oniesha Temby

 

Koorliny Arts Centre’s current offering, Peter Pan, is an energetic show that takes every member of its audience back to their childhood. Based on the play by Sir J.M. Barrie, this Broadway classic musical adaptation certainly makes a great family night out with great comedic moments and excellent vocal performances.


The high-energy titular role of the show was depicted joyfully by Christie McGarrity who gives an increasingly dynamic and animated performance, allowing no room for the audience to believe she was anyone besides the beloved Peter Pan, topping it all off with stunning vocals. Whilst well performed, this demanding role would have benefited from a few more calmer moments to allow the audience to connect with the character and his overarching journey.


By Peter’s side is the kind and ever-loveable Wendy, portrayed by first-time leading lady Jordyn Gallop, who should be commended for not only her vocal prowess, but also her believable character choices. Joining the ‘mother’ of the lost boys on her journey to Neverland are her two brothers John (Matt Ballantine) and Micheal (Eli Dale on opening night), who both gave the audience some great moments within the show, despite the opening night nerves.


A particular audience favourite was the bumbling-yet-loyal pirate Smee, who was beautifully portrayed by Rp Van Der Westhuizen, embodying everything Smee should be in comparison to Captain Hook. Hook, the villain of the show, played by Ryan Taaffe, gave the audience some great soppy comedic moments, especially when being approached by the crocodile. There were times when Taaffe's impressive comedy chops did not hit as hard as they could have, due to a lack of emotional variation in the character, leaving some scenes feeling off balance without the more serious, grounded emotions coming through.


As we travel to Neverland, we meet the Lost Boys whose depiction of a brotherly camaraderie and sometimes near slapstick comedy was definitely a highlight of the show, with many standout numbers. One more notable mention in the ensemble should go to the Pirates who, despite many of the cast joining later in the rehearsal process, brought light-hearted and strong performances.


This strong ensemble was given basic and simple choreography by Matilda Jenkins, allowing a cast with a variety of experience levels to achieve effective and visually pleasing numbers overall. There were moments when this choreography could have been more advanced, especially in numbers with the Neverland Natives and Tiger Lilly, where there was clearly a stronger dance experience than in the rest of the ensemble.


Technically, this show has much to offer, with simple lighting enhanced by the great use of a moving light as Tinkerbell. Sadly, the sound design was not as effective with a volume imbalance between the on-stage microphones and the backing tracks. This meant that many songs, although beautifully sung, were hard to hear. The storytelling was also not helped by many mics coming on late or early meaning many lines were missed by the audience and multiple moments of backstage chatter were heard.


With a show that’s a story close to many viewers' hearts, the Director, Blake Jenkins, has done well to transport us into a world of colour, adventure and magic. This was due to the simple yet effective set, designed and built by Stephen and Pear Carr and Quantum Building Services, made up of a few key moveable pieces for each scene that were storybook-esque, highlighted by a beautiful fairy light backdrop and a multicoloured crosshatch floor. This vision was consistent with the colourful costumes of the show designed by Melissa Kelly, Matilda Jenkins and Katherine Freind, with beautifully classic costumes for each character. It would have been nice not to be pulled away from this state of visual bliss with modern sneakers and heelies being used by multiple members of the cast, with little to no disguise, but this didn't have a huge impact on the overarching aesthetics.


Overall, this show is visually stunning and offers some great character and beautiful vocal performances, with effective choreography, all of which work together to keep the audience in a state of whimsy the whole show.



Reviewer Note: Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.

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