THE STAGE REVIEW PETER PAN: Marking its 40th anniversary Christmas, Guy Pascall’s rendition is surprisingly the first time the Playhouse has plumped for Peter Pan as its festive showcase.
Noticeably improving last year’s Aladdin set designs, you’re soon whisked away from Victorian London to enchanting Neverland, where the Lost Boys’ hideaway appears plucked straight from the wondrous imagination of a child.
Despite a rather sudden and meek demise at the hands of the hefty, imaginative crocodile, Chris Ellison’s scheming Captain Hook brings storybook qualities to life, as does his youthful nemesis, our hero, Jacob Scipio’s Peter Pan, whose magical flying sequences captivate throughout.
The Playhouse’s collaboration with Academy Arts and Jacqui Ison Theatre Arts is a winner, portraying the commanding gang ingredients essential for the Lost Boys. Alongside the likes of Amanda Dawson’s fantastic Tiger Lily and her Indian tribe, together they continuously perfect Kerry Blaskett’s vibrant choreography, with pulsating drum-led routines making for ferocious viewing.
From her soaring rendition of Wicked’s notorious Defying Gravity to the chilling Adele number Feel My Love, it’s soon evident why Amber Wallis secured her role via a ‘Search for Wendy’ open auditions process.
Akin to his jovial Wishee Washee 12 months ago, when the excellent Tom Swift’s Smee isn’t flirting with poor front-row victims, his impulsive facial expressions and chubby comedy capers bring the house down.
Catering for boys, girls and the children in all of us, like Pan himself, it’s a story that never grows old.
THE STAGE REVIEW ALADDIN: Following last Christmas’ well-received production of Cinderella, collaborating once again with New World Productions, the intimate Harlow Playhouse delivers an Aladdin to tickle all ages.
What this production lacks in its set, it more than makes up for in entertainment value. Encapsulated in their spine-tingling rendition of Breaking Free, Aaron Sidwell (formerly Stephen Beale in EastEnders) brings a boyish charm as Aladdin, alongside Holly Matthews’ Princess Jasmine, making for the picture-perfect couple.
Blue-clad Jimmy Burton-Iles enthusiastically adopts the whirlwind demeanour of Disney’s Robin Williams’ Genie, but Chris Stanton lacks that villainous streak often associated with Abanazar.
Exceeding all expectations, the witty and sarcastic double act of Paul Leno’s brassy Widow Twankey and Tom Swift’s laugh-a-minute Wishee Washee, rule the roost. Thriving on the tongue-in-cheek, Essex-themed puns, the jovial pair’s ad-libbing is superb and their quick-fire one-liners warrant a stand-up slot on Michael McIntyre.
Director Andrew Lynford is wise to utilise prankster Wishee to maximum effect. Swift’s rapport with the audience owes a lot to his boundless enthusiasm and flirty facial expressions. If you’re as lucky as Jane in the front row, you’ll be the recipient of Wishee’s love and affection in a madcap interpretation of the Twelve Days of Christmas, involving everything from toilet rolls to nappies and baggy bras.
The Playhouse’s adaptation therefore proves that the only way really is Essex.