Reviewed by Jodie Crawford
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Crossroads Pantomimes brings us The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan. Based (loosely) on the book by JM Barrie, about the boy who could fly and never grows up.
As the glittery curtain rises we meet Tink (Samara Casteallo), a flying fairy who can produce pixie dust, which allows other characters in Neverland to fly. Tink enrols the help of Wendy (Jessica Croll) to come to Neverland to help save Peter Pan (Ross Carpenter) and make him fly once more. Arch nemesis Captain Hook (Jason Manford) has other plans and aims to steal all of the pixie dust and get his revenge on Peter Pan.
At least I think that is the plot. The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t really matter what the plot is, this show is way bigger than the plot. The plot gets stretched and bent and twisted and we get distracted and we laugh and we clap and we dance and then we return to the plot for a moment and then off we go again.
This is hands down THE best pantomime I have ever seen. I was worried that it was missing a “pop star” but that didn’t matter. I was worried that it was missing a “dame” but that didn’t matter. What really mattered was the astonishing partnership between Captain Hook (Jason Manford) and the incredibly talented Ben Nickless as Smee. From the minute the two are together on stage there are explosions of comic fireworks, which had us crying with laughter time and time again.
Nickless returns to the Opera House for his fourth panto, but this year it’s different, this year he is a big star. He has had an incredible year on Britain’s Got Talented, and it’s given him the platform to take command of the stage. I loved him last year and didn’t think he could get any better, but somehow he has. Having two hilarious comedians in the show has made it doubly funny. They don’t compete with each other, the fit perfectly together.
Manchester loves a northerner, so Manford is an excellent casting choice. The crowd absolutely love him, and for good reason: he can act, he can sing, and he is super funny. The way in which he breaks character every so often, works really well at engaging the audience. He has the crowd participation element of panto spot on!
Both Manford and Nickless were born to star together on stage in pantomime. The mermaid scene and the 12 days of Christmas had me in absolute stitches. I really hope we get to see them collaborate again in the future.
The whole cast are tremendous, I can’t imagine it’s an easy feat sharing a stage with the huge personalities of Manford and Nickless, but it doesn’t phase them at all. Ross Carpenter is a beautiful Peter. I found him to be gentle and kind in character, with a spritely energy about him.
I loved the addition of The Acromaniacs, like many elements of this production, their inclusion brings nothing to the plot, but it doesn’t matter because they’re fabulous. They bring a variety hall feel to the production and I loved it!
The ensemble are exemplary, they are seamlessly woven into the scenes, so much incredible talent and they keep us entertained throughout.
Ian Westbrook’s set design is exquisite. The sound design, the special fx, the choreography, the costumes, the props, the lighting: all of it, is utter perfection.
You don’t need to like panto to love this; this is modern panto – genuinely clever and very funny. It’s a panto for the young and the old. It’s for the northerners, the southerners and even the Aussies (hiya Jordan!). Life feels very heavy at the moment for so many people, there are so many things to be worried about and who knows what next year will bring, but spend two hours in the Opera House this festive season and somehow things will feel just a little bit lighter and brighter. The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan is exactly what we all need this Christmas, superb!
The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan is on at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 31st December tickets available here.