Reviewed by Jenny Bray
It’s the run up to Christmas, which means it is officially pantomime season and time for shows with audience participation actively encouraged… oh no it’s not… oh yes it is!
This year’s pantomime at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield is Peter Pan. There are a number of key stars including David Ribi as Peter Pan (best known as a Milkshake presenter), Gemma Hunt as Tiger Lily (best known as a CBeebies presenter) and Wendi Peters (best known from Coronation Street) and Shaun Williamson (best known from EastEnders) both playing a variety of parts. Last, but definitely by no means least, is Damian Williams as the larger than life Mrs Smee. Damian is the dame of the show and it is his 11th year playing dame in the Lyceum pantomime! He definitely had the biggest cheer when first appearing on the stage.
The Lyceum is one of the theatres in the centre of Sheffield. It is the more traditional theatre. The staff were very welcoming. There is a kiosk and there are bars on both the ground and first floors. The local Q parks car park is a short walk away and offers the first hour of parking free for theatre goers if you pick up an additional ticket from the theatre.
I didn’t realise that J M Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan, gave the rights to the story to Great Ormond Street Hospital in 1929 so they are the ones that benefit from anyone who has used the story ever since. Paul Hendy wrote, directed and produced this version for the Lyceum, which is his 12th year of doing it for the pantomime at the Lyceum. His production last year won Pantomime of the Year at The Great British Pantomime Awards. The production was slick, with some great entertaining additions and lots of laughs so he’s clearly doing something right to keep the audiences full every show.
The production is a combination of a storyline with added cheesy capers and puns with audience participation sprinkled in. There were lots of jokes aimed at all ages and a few geared towards the adults in the audience. Hook and Mrs Smee have a very funny series of fruit, veg and herb jokes going on at one point… there wasn’t mushroom for any more puns in that scene!
The main story is the standard story of children Wendy, Michael and John Darling heading to Neverland with Peter and his lost boys with Hook and Peter being sworn enemies and looking to find each other. Mixed in to the scenes are some amazing acrobatics, juggling, fire breathing and fire poi skills by The Diamond Acrobats and some of the supporting actors, which always achieved a huge round of applause.
There were a few famous songs thrown in the mix, including Shaun Williamson as Hook singing a Taylor Swift song! He had just the right mix of scary but fun bits for the children coupled with comedy for all ages. There were also a few EastEnders jokes thrown in by other cast members on occasion.
There were a couple of parts with genuine adlibbing in that were very funny. Damian Williams seemed easily able to go off script to create laughs at points, which is no mean feat, particularly when Shaun’s microphone stopped working.
Jo Osmond was notable as a very energetic and enthusiastic Tinkerbell who bounced and pranced around the stage.
Damian Williams is a tall and large male with a big, booming voice yet he has a great presence as the dame and carried off both some great jokes and puns and the seemingly required many outfit changes for a dame, from many completely outrageous dresses incorporating things like a bath and a plastic duck to a lighthouse and a ship to slightly more demure, for a panto dame at least!
Wendi Peters played some great parts with some amazing accents, which elicited a few hearty laughs. The mermaids definitely had some interesting accents going on!
There were also several local references thrown in, particularly referring to not getting certain things in pantos in other Yorkshire places!
There was a scene where they sung ‘always look on the bright side of life’ while sat on a bench and not seeing something behind them. They made reference to it being in every Lyceum panto and I recall it being in the one I saw a couple of years ago.
The stage setting started off as the children’s bedroom and then converted to a night scene when they head to Neverland. It then becomes a scene with a central piece that rotates for different settings; pirate ship, Peter Pan’s hideout and the Crazy Horse Tribe’s home.
At the end the cast did some audience participation pieces. They read out some audience birthdays, got the audience to compete in a sing-a-long and then did a last song.
The show started at 7 and finished just after 9.30, which made it slightly late but doable with children. I took my 6 year old along tonight. When I asked him which bit he liked best he said he loved it all. I rate it 5/5 and recommend it for a fun family pantomime with entertainment for all ages. Tick tock goes the croc, for getting tickets while this is still running… don’t worry the puns in the show are slightly better than mine!
Tickets cost from £15 to £40 (booking fees may apply).
Peter Pan is at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield from 7 December 2018 to 6 January 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 0114 249 6000.
Lyceum Theatre, Norfolk St, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 1DA | 0114 249 6000