Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
26th May 2022
Popular local theatre society Coventry Musical Theatre Society (CMTS) have numerous production credits and NODA wins under their belts, and they’re back on the Belgrade stage this week with their new production, ‘Peter Pan’.
Based on the timeless 1904 play by JM Barrie, this musical interpretation features music & lyrics by longstanding song-writing partnership Stiles & Drewe, and its book (by Willis Hall) tells the familiar story of the boy who flew around in green tights, swashed the buckles of infamous baddie Captain Hook, and never grew up.
CMTS have assembled a good cast here, and Director Steve Boden keeps the piece in “musical” territory rather then veering off into panto which could’ve easily happened, and is a better show for it. The bigger group numbers are fun and well delivered, and execute Sue Biddle’s choreography well. The ensemble features performers of all ages and everyone looks to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. The flying and sword-fighting scenes look great and are sure to keep younger audience members entertained throughout.
Abe Armitage makes for a charming and likeable lead as Peter, showing great movement and handling the wirework like a professional. Craig Garner-Beasley is also excellent as the villainous Hook, clearly relishing his role and also doing a great job with the Act 1 closer “When I Kill Peter Pan”. Other standouts are Steve Bowler as Smee, and Brenna Towers who delivers some unexpectedly brilliant jazz-scatting as Tiger Lily. Grace Bend (Wendy), Riley Manley (John) and William Arbuckle (Michael) are all strongly played as the all-important to the plot, Darling children. Also, a special mention must go to dance captain Louise Redmond who dons a brilliant Nana costume and manages to be utterly adorable without saying a word.
It must be said that ‘Peter Pan’ isn’t Stiles & Drewe’s best musical; it lacks the strength of score that make ‘Honk’, ‘Soho Cinders’ and their memorable contributions to ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘Half A Sixpence’ so enjoyable. A lot of the songs here are somewhat humdrum, although, saying that, they are well performed by the large community cast, and both acts do end on satisfying numbers.
Critically, Hall’s book lacks consistent humour and could do with a bit more life and vibrancy injected into it, as the pace does suffer between songs. If I were just offering a star rating on the Stiles & Drewe music and songs alone we’d be in average three star territory but … these are no faults of the CMTS company who have clearly taken this musical as it stands and done their utmost with it and thereby blasted it skywards into a four star rating with their admirable local talents and overall energy and enthusiasm. I always knew that other (second) star on the right would come in handy – now straight on home until morning for this reviewer.
A fun showcase of local talent, ‘Peter Pan’ is a great way of getting children engaged with the magic of theatre, and while there are stronger musicals out there, CMTS should be delighted with what they’ve achieved here. It may not fly quite as high as Peter does, but there’s certainly more than enough to enjoy here at this fine community theatre showing at The Belgrade Theatre.
‘Peter Pan’ runs at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre until Sunday 29th May 2022
Performance runtime 2 hours 35 minutes including interval