His Majesty’s Theatre
Friday 17 November
First presented by West Australian Ballet in 2013, this production of Peter Pan was choreographed by Russell Kerr for the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 1999. Skilfully re-staged for WAB by the ballet staff led by Craig Lord-Sole with Sandy Delasalle and Cédric Ygnace, the whole company performed faultlessly on opening night.
Set to an original score by Philip Norman, in three acts with one interval and ten short scenes, maestro Myron Romanul conducted the West Australian Philharmonic Orchestra with vigour and verve, enhancing some of the flatter moments in the choreography with a rich orchestral sound.
Designed by Kristian Fredrikson, this Peter Pan begins in the elegant Edwardian nursery of the Darling household, with a large casement window looking out to the night skies, and a stylishly dressed Mr and Mrs Darling (Christopher Hill and Brooke Widdison-Jacobs). The narrative then takes the action to the lush green palm trees of Neverland, Hook’s impressive timber Pirate Ship, The Marooner’s Rock in the enchanting Mermaid Lagoon, and the lost boys’ Home Under the Ground. The massive grinning crocodile is fabulous and the spectacular ‘flying’ sequences work their magic.
There are many visual delights in this production with dry ice often enveloping the stage, soft white clouds floating in a blue-sky and lighting designer Jon Buswell’s black, starry-night vistas. The Mermaid Lagoon setting drew applause as the curtain rose at the beginning of Act 11. Some scene changes seem cumbersome and have not stood the test of time. And some costume designs flick the switch to kitsch, as does some of the choreography, which ventures into the realms of burlesque, vamping and racial stereotyping, although the dancers’ brilliant performances attempt to transcend these "look away now" moments.
Former WAB soloist Andre Santos (now with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in Montreal) was a memorable Peter in the last WAB production and he is much missed. His photograph is featured on the cover and throughout the printed program for the current production, which caused some consternation. However the audience warmly welcomed young Italian corps de ballet dancer Stefano Russiello as Peter Pan. His attractive Puck-like mischievous confidence was very appealing and he has a lovely technique.
Also from the corps de ballet, Carina Roberts as Tinkerbell almost stole the show as she flitted about bringing to life a jealous, sulky, pert, defiant yet none-the-less adorable character. Her dancing was animated, light and exquisite and best of all she hardly left the stage.
Matthew Lehmann’s hilarious tipsy, be-wigged Captain Hook was an incompetent, hedonistic bully, blissfully unaware of his ineptitude and that his rollicking pirate crew bowed to his face and laughed behind his back.
Claire Voss (Wendy) also from the corps, was charming and found depth and spark to a character often seen as rather bland. And the Darling lads, Michael (Oliver Edwardson) and John (Oscar Valdés) were a great pair, squeezed every ounce of comedy out of their roles and managed to be convincing as rambunctious (rather tall), young boys without venturing too far over the top.
Florence Leroux-Coleno (Cold) and Ana Gallardo (Dark), then Chihiro Nomura (Warmth) and Meg Parry (Light) performed wonderfully despite rather challenging costumes and Meg Parry’s squawking Neverbird was a notable highlight in Act 11. Polly Hilton (Tiger Lily) reprised the role gracefully and Gakuro Matsui & Liam Green (Braves) both danced splendidly.
Also deserving of a mention are Alessio Scognamiglio (Peter’s shadow), Liam Green doubling up as the Sun King, and Adam Alzaim (Smee) in a fantastic comic turn. And Young Artist Emily Seymour’s multiple backflips drew cheers.
A mixed audience of young and old were effusive in their delighted response to this performance, a response thoroughly deserved by the equally delighted dancers and ballet staff.
- MARGARET MERCER