Peter Pan is itself a delightful bedtime story and on Norwood’s large proscenium stage, the Theatre Academy’s production team and young cast captured that narrative essence, and the accompanying sense of wonder. Director Ben Francis, MD Jennifer Trijo and Choreographer Jacinta Vistoli combined to produce a well-paced, lively and entertaining production. As with a number of youth theatre groups, the Theatre Academy uses dual casts in order to provide as many of their young performers as possible with the chance to shine. The receptive opening night audience saw the Neverland cast.
The reassuring and articulate Alexandra Runjajic, as the Storyteller, gave us the essential sure framework and established precisely the right tone from the outset. The Darling family was credible and well-cast. Jayden Ayling was a somewhat crabby and impatient father, while Emma Vanderzon brought poise and maturity to her role as Mrs Darling. Her song Just Beyond The Stars was a delight, showcasing her tuneful, mellow voice.
Amber Fibrosi was very convincing as Wendy. She sang with a true, strong voice and, especially in the charming lullaby to the lost boys, showed her empathy and tenderness. At all other times she had a real sense of character and was a sure, confident presence.
Central to the action, of course, is Peter himself, here well-realised by Madeleine Nunn. She moved and sang well, had a convincing sense of being other-worldly, and rallied the action – usually via the troupe of lost boys – with vigour and encouragement.
Emma Dalton’s Tinkerbell was, rightly, enchanting. Her physicality and cheeky impishness were critical in giving us the necessary sense of wonder. Her smooth and confident agility, while gliding about on heelys, truly gave the feeling of flight. That was impressive all through the performance, but was especially effective when she led the Darling children out through the nursery window and into the clouds. It was a very convincing scene.
Jaxon Joy made his Captain Hook a genuinely commanding figure. He had a real sense of authority, using his extraordinarily sonorous speaking voice to great effect. He worked well with the animated and impressive Ethan Joy as his side-kick, Smee. Their song lamenting the curse of being a pirate with a heart was well conceived and well executed.
The chorus ensembles of lost boys, Indians (well led by Polly Schubert as Tiger Lily) and pirates were active and well choreographed, providing much of the necessary mood to their scenes. The set was simple and scene changes were largely seamless and slick, usually undertaken by the cast.
Jennifer Trijo’s band was central to the show’s success. They provided well modulated musical support to the cast and established the atmosphere in every scene.
In all, this was a successful re-creation of the well known and much loved story, and clearly delighted the large audience.