The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan

"Second star to the right and straight on to the Manchester Opera House. This 5 star panto will have you hooked!"

Is it really time for panto season again? Cue the "oh no it isn’t, oh yes it is"......... but would The Pantomime Adventures Of Peter Pan at Manchester’s Opera House be the fairest in all of panto land? Read on to find out!

The plot is set after the Peter Pan story we all know and love.  It opens with the newly named ‘Tink’ seeking Wendy’s help as Neverland is running out of magic. Peter can no longer fly due to the mermaid lagoon waterfall drying up and that’s where the magic comes from, of course! Let’s be honest, nobody visits a Pantomime for the fantastic storyline or expects a great in-depth play to pan out in front of them, but unique stage crafts keep the story moving.

Set designer Ian Westbrook, has kept certain aspects simple but effective. We are transported to different realms within Neverland using scenic backdrops which were highly detailed and ranged from the mermaids lagoon to the rooftops of Manchester. This is in contrast to the end of act one where we meet the crocodile, no spoilers here but it certainly is one of many standout moments and anything but understated. Act two opens with the impressive Jolly Roger making full use of the stage with gasps from the children in the audience. An impressive piece of moveable staging that the ensemble cast make full use of during its brief time on stage. Panic at the Discos ‘High Hopes’ is performed during the opening aboard the Jolly Rodger and has been reinterpreted for Peter and his pals to become a jolly pirate shanty.

Making his Pantomime debut and playing Captain Hook is star of stage and screen Jason Manford. Naturally oozing charisma in the role, he entices the audience to boo him, as is traditional in Panto, before breaking character and telling the audience just how hard it is to be a Pantomime bad guy. We are then, it seems, in the middle of a Jason Manford stand up comedy gig with gags for the whole family. Jason puts the audience at ease with routine jokes for children and adults with some of them presumably passing over the younger viewers heads. Beware though, nobody is exempt from the Pantomime fun as one audience member found out!

Jason, known for his acting, comedy and writing abilities showed off his talented singing voice during ‘Cry Me A River’ which drew a huge audience response. Audiences may be unfamiliar that he holds a top 10 album and performed as a Hedgehog on The Masked Singer which gets a lovely nod in the show. As far as Pantomime debuts go they don’t get much better than this.

Starring opposite Jason is fellow Manchester comedian Ben Nickless, recently seen making it to the finals of Britains Got Talent. This is Ben’s fourth Pantomime in Manchester and he certainly keeps the audience coming back for more. Ben is a natural playing the role of Smee and navigates us through Neverland. His scenes with Jason are of particular highlight as their energy and chemistry come naturally to both. Whether they are teaching us a ‘newer’ version of the 12 Days of Christmas or taking us on a journey dressed as mermaids with singing coconut bras (you really have to see it to believe it) the pair certainly have a natural rapport with the audience. We are also treated to a performance not too dissimilar to the ones seen on Britain’s Got Talent where ‘This Is Me’ is performed by Ben in a range of characters ranging from Boris Johnson to Scooby Doo. Not only was this incredible to watch but also a heartfelt message and moment in a show of chaos and laughter. Ben deserves all the plaudits he has received this year and will go from strength to strength. 

The cast also includes many West End stars and it shows in the calibre of the performances and overall aesthetic of the show. Jessica Croll, recently in the Dominion Theatre as Patty Simcox in Grease, fills the stage with the magic and joy you would expect to see in Panto. Samara Casteallo playing Tink shows off her vocal prowess in the opening number whilst we travel over the houses using video special effects. The pair have several duets together and portray genuine friendship whilst consistently delivering high energy dancing. Ross Carpenter’s portrayal of Peter Pan is youthful and fun. He particularly impresses during his fight scene with Captain Hook which had children gasping and cheering. The lost boys were brought to life by The Acromaniacs and they even got Ben Nickless involved in their high flying action. This brought something different to the usual pantomime by using just a trampoline, box and crash mat as ‘training’ for their quest to beat Captain Hook. What ensued was impressive, comedic acrobatics with perfect comic timing. 

The Pantomime Adventures Of Peter Pan really does have it all and is a must see this holiday season. Second star to the right and straight on to the Manchester Opera House. This 5 star panto will have you hooked!

This show was reviewed on the 13th December 2022 and runs at the Manchester Opera House until the 31st December 2022.  Tickets are available here: The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan | December 2022 | Opera House Manchester, Manchester | ATG Tickets

Review written by Jordan Potts

Photo credit: Phil Tragen


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