Whisking both children and adults away past the second star to the right and straight on till morning, the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre pantomime Peter Pan makes everyone feel young again.
Strictly Come Dancing legend Russell Grant is the headline act as Roger the Cabin Boy, but the show was stolen by local lad Andy Collins, who plays Captain Hook’s (Steven Serlin) bumbling sidekick Smee.
Collins’ enthusiasm comes across in every scene and he easily whips the audience up into a frenzy, particularly during the hilarious performance of the ‘12 days of Christmas’. But theatre goers be warned - the song’s ending will leave you wet with more than just tears of laughter.
No one is excused involvement in the sing-a-longs and dance routines, particularly with the threat of an on stage dressing down looming.
Joining Collins and Grant in Neverland are the Darling children, including Wendy (Holly Brewer), who accompanies Peter Pan (Adam Pettigrew) in perhaps the show’s most memorable scene flying across the skies of London.
Once there the Darlings join forces with the Lost Boys, who are just as important to the show’s success as anyone. Despite being of such a young age they all deliver on stage and it is right that a Christmas show for the kids has plenty of them in it.
That said, pantomime is known for having dashes of double entendre to keep the adults entertained. At first it seemed the producers had decided to play it safe in this instance, but once Grant, Collins and Serlin get into their stride the jokes keep flowing.
The sparkly sets are complemented by equally impressive costumes, particularly that of Serlin as Hook, although anti-HS2 campaigners might not be so pleased by his gags. The pantomime villain routine aside, which Serlin does excellently, he could easily be mistaken for Dustin Hoffman in Steven Spielberg’s 1991 film Hook.
Throughout the show there is danger at every corner for Pan, the Darlings and Tiger Lily (Jasmine Kerr), with Hook and his pirates seeking revenge for past embarrassments. But Hook also has to keep looking over his shoulder is case the ticking crocodile who ate his arm ever catches up with him, although there doesn’t seem to be much danger of that given the speed the croc moves at.
Also worth looking out for are the ever-present and splendidly soulful divas, played by Bobbie Gordon and Ngozi Ugoh. One of the main joys of pantomime are the new characters introduced and they are two prime examples, as glamorous as Hook is dastardly.
Grant admitted with the flying scenes taking so much time to practice, the cast and director Ian McFarlane had limited time to rehearse some scenes, but it rarely shows and, like Peter Pan, audiences will no doubt be wanting to stay in Neverland forever.