Hills Musical Theatre Company: Peter Pan - Review by Annalise Pittman
As one of Disney's most beloved movies, it is no surprise that ‘Peter Pan’ has also become a much-loved musical. A well-known story with whimsical, fantastical characters, it was a joy to see The Hills Musical Theatre Company’s production come to life on the stage.
The stars of this production created a land of imagination and wonder that the audience was drawn into. From the orchestral overture at the start of the production to the final bow, this production had flair and professionalism not always seen in community productions. The children in the audience were bopping along to the happy tones. If it wasn’t already obvious, I would have known the entrance of each character by the "That’s Peter Pan!", "That’s the bad guy!" and "That’s Wendy" from my 5-year-old, whose favourite character was "the crocodile!".
Rae Berkley as Peter Pan gave the role the childlike joyfulness that the role demands. Their ability to create magic and whimsy was a delight. The use of the stage while both on the ground and flying high was impressive. Her chemistry with Ruby Cuelho as Wendy made the duo captivating. Despite Ruby’s young years, she managed to take on the role of ‘mother’ and showed a maturity beyond her years. Her lovely voice shone in all of her performances. As Hook and Mr. Darling, Jason Spindlow brought the comedic tone that was loved in the film to life. He was engaging in both roles, but especially as Hook with his ‘Jack Sparrow’ style movements, creating a pirate character that was relatable and humorous. Both Tyler Thorovsky and Lachlan Fay as John and Michael Darling, respectively, deserve a special mention for their joyful performance, which was full of imagination and fun. My 5-year-old particularly enjoyed Michael Darling’s positive thoughts of "Candy" and "Christmas" for him to be able to fly. The huge cast included some extremely talented children, who I’m sure will be making waves in productions to come. A special mention needs to be made of the unbelievable orchestra. Their flawless performance really held the show together. The singing, dancing, and acting all came together to create a professional production.
Community theatre means that you need to be inventive with the way things happen on stage, and this was very true for Peter Pan. I was in awe of the ability to use sound and lighting in such a clever way to bring the character of Tinker Bell to life. The interaction between a spotlight and an actor really sounded like it shouldn’t work, but it really did! The fairly simple staging was effective in its depiction of each scene but not so cumbersome that it impacted the action when being rearranged. I was really impressed with the way the production team created the amazing illusion of flying for the journey to Neverland, which added to the magic. The success of the show is a credit to the production team, with Gloria Dodds at the helm as director, Gemma Rolph and Emma Rose the musical directors and Alyssa and Briana Nagy, the wonderful choreographers. This team has managed to get the best out of their cast, crew and orchestra.
Everything about this production came together to create a nostalgic and whimsical performance that oozed joy and imagination. We left feeling happy and with demands to listen to the soundtrack in the car on the way home! You know it’s been a great performance when you're left wanting more. I give this performance 4.5 out of 5 for children who never grow up.
Photos courtesy of Grant Leslie Photography