National Post

Peter Pan visits Alice’s turf to find a jolly new adventure

When Peter Pan came to Wonderland

- Robert Cushman Peter Pan in Wonderland runs through January 3 at the Elgin Theatre

Ross Petty is finally slinging his Hook. After 20- years playing villains in his self- produced, self- described -“family musicals” (read: trad itional English pantomimes somewhat Canadianiz­ed) he’s making his onstage farewell. The shows will go on, but from n-ext year he’ll be their impres ario only, not their star. For his valedictor­y performanc­e he takes up the role he was born to play, and in fact already has.

But that was in another script, one that was a closer spoof of J. M. Barrie’s original P-eter Pan. Peter Pan in Won derland, as its title proclaims, is a mash- up of Peter Pan or some of its characters, with an even greater children’s classic, Alice in Wonderland or some of its characters, the latter bunch b-eing somewhat arbitraril­y se lected. The evening starts with Eddie Glen, a valued regular, and Jessica Holmes, a valuable newbie, temporaril­y tagged as Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumber, singing a song called Backstory, in which they skim through the details of their two revered sources, very few of which bear any relation to t- he entertainm­ent that fol lows. Still, it’s a fun number, spiritedly performed. “Lewis Carroll,” they promise us, “will turn in his grave” and they p- redict a similar fate for Bar rie. I don’t know; it seems to me that their properties have taken so many beatings over the years that they must have grown very thick posthumous skins. At least this production d-oesn’t pretend to be respect ful. The world in recent years has been especially cold to Peter Pan knock- offs, most of them awful. There’s even been a previous collision between Peter and Alice: a play of that name was seen in London a c- ouple of seasons ago, pre senting the mostly unhappy grown-up lives of the real-life c-hildren on whom the fiction a-l hero and heroine were mod elled. It wasn’t good.

Peter Pan in Wonderland is n- ot great but good. The pro logue over, we move to the o-lder-and-wiser Wendy’s bed room as she waits yet again for Peter to make one of his r- eturn flying visits, oft prom ised but never performed. This time he does turn up but too late; his impatient girlfriend has stepped inside what she takes to be a basket of goodies but which in fact precipitat­es her right down a rabbit- hole. So you know w-here she’ll end up. Peter, in formed of her flight by Nana, the unexpected­ly talking dog, follows her down, followed in his turn by Tinker Bell’s much bigger sister, Tinkerbum, who of course is closely related to the timorous and amorous Dame Plumbum whom Dan C- hameroy has played in suc cessive Petty Pantos, each time more delectably than the time before. My favourite moment in the present show is fairy C- hameroy laboriousl­y climb ing through the Darling family window, which fortunatel­y is a big one.

Anyway, they catch up with Wendy who meantime has made the acquaintan­ce of Alice, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat, who exhibit few of their role- models’ characteri­stics and even fewer of their own. It turns out that Captain Hook, having escaped the jaws of his nemesis the crocodile, has engineered the arrival in Wonderland of Peter and Co. s-o that, by nefarious and com plicated ways, he may get his hands on the Tickle Trunk of Wonder, which resides at the centre of a maze somewhere and can be opened only with fairy dust that the unknowing Wendy has in her possession.

Chris Earle’s script has the s-ame basic script as all his pre vious pantos: there’s something somewhere that will bestow giant destructiv­e powers, and the Petty character must have it. ( He Must! She Must! They Must!) The goodies, striving to p-revent this, face many rever sals, including imprisonme­nt, but finally square off against t-he baddies in a TV-style con test, which here involves some f-antastic rope-skipping by An thony McPherson’s altogether acrobatic Peter. There’s a chase in which the coveted object passes from hand to hand to hand and back again. Earle’s writing credit is again buried deep in the listings, somewhere between the stage manager and the music co- ordinator; I used to wonder at this but now suspect that it`s because Messrs Petty, Chameroy and Glen ( he plays Smee, Hook’s conflicted, but loyal first mate) are so adept at making up their own lines when things go wrong and sometimes even when they don’t.

The only character with a life of her own, and partly of Lewis Carroll’s, is Holmes’ lisping flirtatiou­s Queen of Hearts, issuing sentences of execution that never get c arried out. My second fa v- ourite is when she imperiousl­y calls, “Five, Six, Seven, Eight,” Chorus Line-style, and playing- card soldiers bearing those numbers troop on to do her bidding. The interpolat­ed pop songs get in on very thin pretexts, but the dances that a- ccompany them ( choreograp­her, Marc Kimmelman) are impressive­ly inventive. Indeed, everything in Tracey Flye’s production­s looks good; Michael Gianfrance­sco’s sets a-re a succession of truly won drous vistas. And then there is the retiring actor- manager himself, about whom there is nothing Petty but the name. His Hook is a daintily stylish, world- weary villain, inviting our boos and hisses with the familiar contemptuo­us relish, now honed to perfection. He makes his final exit into his own infernal basket, singing that he did it His Way, which is no less than the truth, and with the insatiable crocodile in eager pursuit. It’s quite a way to go.

Everything in Tracey Flye’s production­s looks good

 ?? Racheal cM Caig Photograph y ?? Ross Petty takes on the role he was born to play: Captain Hook
Racheal cM Caig Photograph y Ross Petty takes on the role he was born to play: Captain Hook
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