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Peter panned

Source: NOW Magazine
Date: December 6, 2007
Author: Debbie Fein-Goldbach



PETER PAN: THE FAMILY MUSICAL THAT'S SILLY, VERY SILLY! by Chris Earle, based on the play by J.M. Barrie, directed by Susan H. Schulman (Ross Petty). At the Elgin (189 Yonge). To January 6. $49-$74. 416-872-5555. Rating: NN




With his lanky frame and bald head, Canadian figure skating champ Kurt Browning doesn't exactly look boyish, but he brings plenty of energy and an endearing naíveté to the modernized panto Peter Pan: The Family Musical That's Silly, Very Silly . Despite his Olympian efforts as Peter, however, this show doesn't take home the gold.

It should work. It has a strong supporting cast, a skilled live band and an animated Ross Petty as a more sarcastic than scary Captain Hook. Writer Chris Earle 's version mostly stays true to the original tale of the Darling children who fly to Neverland with Peter Pan. However, Earle overstuffs the script with groan-inducing jokes and worn-out pop-culture references. (Haven't we laughed enough at Clay Aiken and Michael Jackson?)

Director Susan H. Schulman uses Browning's natural strengths as a performer, especially in the brilliant scene when Peter finally takes down Hook.

But too often, Schulman relies on cute. Bringing up three kids from the audience adheres to panto tradition and gets cheers, but it feels like a plot-advancing cop-out. Even the wonderful Eddie Glen 's caustic style gets neutered in a floppy dog suit.

By the second act, some production aspects become annoying, like the persistent raising and lowering of the curtain between scenes, the projection of signage forwards, then backwards to indicate the location of action (it comes off like a technical gaffe) and overt product placements.

Uninspired cover-tune musical numbers like the one of hokey TV theme song Believe It Or Not, I'm Walking On Air give choreographer Tracey Flye little to work with. Even the rousing River Deep, Mountain High feels gimmicky, although Walk On By, from the same era, sounds fabulous. And Donnie MacPhee brings down the house as a rapping crocodile.

Updating this show with a rap song and digital-age references makes it accessible to a young audience. Too bad it isn't more magical, or even as silly as it proclaims.