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"Our ability to love is our truest power, our greatest power as human beings." PMG

March 5, 2008

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?Peter Pan?? what a tremendous production here in Bromley South at the Churchill Theatre!

Pantomime theatre is an incredible experience for one and all. The audience is filled with people from 1- 100+, all are ready for shouting out their favorite expressions according to the character and his/her actions.

The stage sets were incredibly colorful, ornate with dazzling detail. The opening curtain drops down in blue with a projected animated silhouette of Peter Pan spelling out his name in fairy dust accompanied by the cheers and applause from the audience followed by the appearance of Captain Hook?s ship, the ?Jolly Roger? and a flood of jeers, boos and hisses. The music, scored almost new every year, is fabulous!

The play opens in the bedroom of Wendy, Jonathan and Michael Darling all being ?nannied? by their dog ?Nana?. Mrs Darling enters as the children prepare for bed. While they are getting read, Peter Pan appears in the window and just as quickly? vanishes. Paul, who also plays Mr. Darling, enters in a harried mood about hurrying up for their evening dinner plans with his boss and needing help fixing his bowtie. He?s dressed in a greenish long smoking jacket tux pants and shirt sporting a smashing British accent.

On, opening night, excitement filled the air in anticipation of Paul?s appearance as the dastardly bad and mad Capt. Hook. It was a night full of great cheer indeed. At his first appearance as Hook, his hat gets knocked off almost taking his great curly wig with it (and the canopy falls behind his chair). Paul recovered fabulously from that and smirks and near laughter from several pirates produced many smiles throughout. Gotta love the bloopers and mishaps.. surely adds wonderful ad-lib creativity to the Panto!

Capt. Hook is paraded onto the stage sitting in his throne of gold with black feathery palms and a matching canopy just above and behind him? held by ?Gentleman Starky? Every step of the pirates is greeted by a great mist of boo?s, hisses and jeers from the audience and, of course, all directed to the devilish Capt. Hook.

He arises with disgust and contempt at the jeers but with arms open as his favored pirates surround and give him their great cheers of admiration. His costume is detailed to the nth degree with a gold cording and shimmering sequins overcoat? it weighs a ton mind you. His vest is a rich maroon red with gold filigree detailing through out. His trousers which are tucked into his knee high boots are black with a golden pattern running through. His black shirt caps at the wrist in wide lace fashion as he brandishes that famous heavy, shimmering silver hook. Adorning his right hip is of course, his sword. He bursts into song about being the greatest, ? Swiniest, swine and blimiest, slimmest creep.. C?est moi!? ? Mrs. Hooks baby boy!? Totally marvelous singing and swinging by Paul and his cast of pirates!

The pirates are soon sent off.. on ?tippy toes?? to find Peter Pan?s hide away with the promise of a reward for the first who finds it! Paul and S?mee.. played by the incredibly funny British comedian Andy Ford? take a commanding presence on stage and there is an incredible chemistry between them all rendering to an evening of great humor and rip roaring belly laughter. No one could leave the theatre without sore ribs, a grand smile and joy in their heart.

After the pirates leave on their mission, Hook leads S?mee over to some mushroom stools as he tells S?mee to take his cutlery and sharpen it so he can kill Peter Pan. They sit down on the s?room stools and S?mee asks how Hook lost his hand... the one he doesn?t have anymore? he explains that it was cut off by Pan and subsequently eaten by a croc.. a croc which he now fears because it wants to indulge on the rest of him. Hook continues to tell S?mee that the croc swallowed a clock and he knows when he is near because of the tick? or tock. As Hook tells his story, smoke begins to pour out of the mushroom he is sitting on. S?mee looks around as the ?smoke? fills in around them, finally screaming ?FIRE? as Hook wonders why he is feeling so hot. Hook jumps up thinking he is on fire with S?mee following after him patting Hook?s backside until Hook turns and gives him that ?are you quite done that look.? Hook exits stage left.

S?mee introduces himself to the audience, asking everyone to be his friend and starts to share his ?news? with the audience? Hook soon re-enters the stage inquiring as to what this news is about. S?mee tells him his book of ?logical nursery rhymes? has just been published! He gives him a few examples like?

?Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall;

Humpty dumpty had a great fall,

None of the Kings horses or King?s men came?

because he was an egg!?

After a few of S?mee?s ?rhymes?, Hook tells him a riddle:

?What do you get when you cut off a leg of gentleman Starky??... ?Starky and Crutch!?

(They had to write something like that don?t you know!)

Hook tells him to leave him alone to ponder?which he does? exit stage right?all about his greatness and how all men envy him and that no man can defeat him. And as he ponders, he finds himself challenged by an Indian woman, ?Tigerlily,? bearing an axe.

?Curses?? he exclaims to the audience.. ?I?m unarmed.? He engages the challenge, bare and ?hook? handed, as they spin around going at each other. Hook laughs at each of her attempts, she elbows him in the gut and spins around with her axe... he swings his hook and gets it stuck in the arm of her chair. She lunges forward to get him and he grabs her but she twists his free arm behind him and prepares to chop at his throat!

Enter S?mee and his fellow pirates to the rescue! Tigerlily is captured and removed. ( In one show, ?Tigerlily?s skirt flies off in the beginning of the duel, but she keeps on going without a smirk or loss of concentration even with a hilarious hoot and comment from Paul as he kicks it out of the way. Later in that scene, S?mee comes out and tells her to put her clothes on and shouts..?Wardrobe!? Hook comments after she has left the stage.. ?I?ve never skinned a half naked Indian before!?

Capt. Hook leads his band of pirates on stage for their ?training? session? a hysterical act of learning the pirate mantra and ? Caribbean Lunge?. Marvelously funny scene especially when S?mee just can?t seem to get the rhyme of the lunge?s mantra ?With one chop of my sword, I?ll chop of his head?! He asks Hook to repeat it which he does and then S?mee is instructed to perform it solo! After several attempts by S?mee, he moves away from Capt. Hook to the end of the pirates line-up continuing his own mantra rhymes...with a chop of my sword I?ll chop of his arm?; . silly? Hook motions with his finger for S?mee to come closer and with that motion, a band member raps his mallet on a wooden tone block.. Hook looks at the band member with slight disgust and finally wide expressive eyes as it continues with each of his finger motions. S?mee shakes his head as a band member wraps on a rain stick with each head turn and says to Hook ?When I do this... it means I?m not coming.? An incredibly funny scene!

Hook gives up on S?mee and returns to instruct the pirates to repeat everything he says? and they do repeat? everything... much to Hook?s dismay, and finally jumping up and down begging them to stop repeating his every word. Before he really begins what he wants them to repeat, a bell chimes and he realizes that he has the upper hand.. or hook as it really is.. he comments and they repeat. ?We love Capt. Hook?.. ?We will work for no compensation? ?I swear?...Only then do the pirates realize what they?ve said and amidst their disgruntled groans.. Hook quickly marches them about face, left turn and a snazzy dance breaks out and off they march with Capt. Hook prancing behind ending with a big smile, a wink and flip of his hook to the audience and a stage left exit.

As a colorful curtain drops for another scenery change, S?mee appears in front of it on stage and leads a few of the pirates in a singing skit of what they would be if they were not pirates. S?mee ?If I were not a pirate then Dave Beckham I would be.. Dribble there, kicking here, bending ?round the world.. The next pirate is ?Harry Potter I would be..? followed by ?Bart Simpson I would be.. Aye caramba.. my shorts?; a talk show host and ending with Starky as ?Bob the Builder I would be.. hammer here, sawing there, Can we build it?... audience reply.. ?Yes we can!? As each pirate appeared and sang their little ditty, the previous would then add his song until a chorus of all of them sang their part in unison. The music is great, and energizing rendering it to continuously ringing in your head well after the scene has ended.

S?mee ?rows? Tigerlily? in a rowboat powered by pedals and S?mee?s feet. He explains that she is going to die ?.. if that?s alright?. He claps her in irons on Skull Rock? unaware that Peter Pan and Wendy are standing above on the top of the skull rock. He imitates Hook?s voice telling S?mee to set her free which he does much to his dismay of Hook changing his mind. She escapes by stealing his boat leaving him to drown on the rock. Hook emerges in his own row boat that he claims to have been rowing in circles for hours due to only using one arm. Pan calls out to Hook in Hooks voice. Hook asks who is the voice.. If you?re Hook then who am I?? The reply is ?A codfish!? Hook inquires .. ?are you a man? Are you a boy? Are you an ordinary boy? Do you have another voice?? Pan finally confirms what Hook always knew? that he is ?Peter Pan!? Hook runs up to the top of the rock to duel and kill him as Pan says don?t you mean fight ?Codfish to boy?? ?Ah always the insults Peter Pan.? Hook exclaims as he pulls out his sword.

They engage in a sword battle and as Peter Pan flies above him, Hook is able to hook Pan in the back gravely wounding him. Delighted with his achievement, Hook prepares to finish Pan off until Wendy begs him to stop! ?Who have we here?? Hook asks. As she tells him, S?mee yells for the Capt to hear the ?tick, tock? that approaches? fear of the croc is the only thing that saves Pan, and Hook quickly gets down from the top and into his row boat as he commands S?mee to row for ?my life? and warns Peter Pan that your end is nigh! Exit stage left!

Wendy escapes the rock via a kite that blows over head and informs Tigerlily who rescues Peter Pan and in an Indian ceremony is joined with Tigerlily. He returns to his ?camp? of lost boys, Wendy and her brothers. After she shows the boys about what team work is all about, she tells them a story, gives them some ?medicine? and tries to get Pan to take his too. He doesn?t want to? and during story time, Wendy and her brothers want to return home and the lost boys want to go with them. Peter Pan says good bye as they each march off and up the stairs to the outside. Once on the top, they are met by Hook and his pirates and taken to the ?Jolly Roger?.

Hook sneaks into Pan?s layout where he is sleeping.

The children in the audience scream continuously for Peter to wakeup as Hook circles him dangling his hook over the head and neck of Pan. Hook asks the children ?I shouldn?t kill him, should I children?? Everyone screams NO and wake-up Peter Pan. Hook decides not to kill him in cold blood but instead pulls out a bottle of poison.. ?Hook?s Elixir? which he pours into the bowl of ?medicine? for Peter to drink.. Hook so proud of himself gives a great laugh as he exits to the top of Pan?s layout. Tinker Bell swims around him as he tells her that Pan will be poisoned and that ?You are the weakest Tink!? Exit stage left! Curtain drops for scenery change!

One of the best skits of the Panto is this scene in which Hook and S?mee come out in front of the curtain. Hook is excited that finally, Peter Pan has met his demise with Hook?s Elixir. S?mee explains to Hook that he is practicing for his audition on ?X Factor?. Hook tells him no, no and that girls are loud and boys are quite. ?Girls are what. Captain?? S?mee inquires? Hook repeats himself resulting in S?mee breaking out in song and dance. Hook shakes his head and grabs a chair while S?mee continues to dance and strut his stuff to the cheers and delight of the audience. Hook gets up and he and S?mee bend forward and admit to the audience that ?I bet they can?t believe we would do this stuff.. but we are?!

Hook continued to joke about S?mee not wearing a proper pirate?s outfit.. no beard, no ?black eye piece?? S?mee rolls with it in song and dance and finally Hook kicks his chair off stage as S?mee talks about ? Beyond Sea? interpreted by Hook as ?Beyonce?? Look out, ?cause Hook does the ?Beyonce Booty!? Incredibly funny as Paul struts himself shaking his ?booty? to the delight and great laughter of the audience. Marvelous!

They dance off stage?.

Peter Pan awakes and Tinker Bell tells him that the lost boys, Wendy, John and Michael have been kidnapped by Hook! He starts to rush out the door and then remembers he promised to take his ?medicine.? Tinker Bell warns him that Hook was here and he poisoned it, but he doesn?t believe it until she ?grabs? it and drinks it. Fading quickly she flies around the room to her ?castle? while Peter cries out about her impending demise. He asks the children in the audience that they must believe in fairies and that is the only way she will live. If you believe in fairies clap your hands and stomp your feet to which the audience screams out in loud roars of clapping, stomping and shouting for Tinker Bell. She illuminates the stage; Peter Pan grabs his sword and heads out to defeat Capt. Hook!

Meanwhile, aboard the ?Jolly Roger?, Hook and his pirates are enjoying a lazy moment and leisure time. S?mee is sewing, Hook is sitting on the side on some boxes as another Pirate, ?Dogtooth,? plays an accordion, and sings off key about how Hook is the greatest! Hook eyes S?mee?s pistol on his sewing table and asks to see it. ?That?s a handsome one? he tells S?mee. Dogtooth continues singing across the stage ? er deck of the Jolly Roger? as Hook lazily aims his pistol and shoots him dead! He falls overboard into the band pit? er? ?sea!?

?Captain.. you shot DogTooth!?

?Yes S?mee, seems I did?

?But he was a good pirate Captain.?

?Yes but a terrible singer, S?mee.?

Hook drops the pistol on the floor as S?mee returns to his sewing. Hook stands and ponders aloud to the audience about himself... bending over to pick up the pistol as S?mee tears a piece of fabric. Still bent over, Hook reaches behind himself and checks for torn pants... with a sigh of relief and great laughter from the audience, he straightens up and continues his ?pondering? about how the children hate him. ?The strongest child always plays Peter Pan and the baby is forced to play Capt. Hook! The Baby!? he says with great indignity. He bends over again as S?mee tears another piece of fabric. The other pirates look around at him then quickly turn away as if they heard nothing. ? Starky?? Hook calls out... pssst.. He motions for him to come over and forces him to the floor behind him to investigate his backside! Starky ? not quite sure what he was supposed to say? makes an ?OK? sign saying ?mmwwahh??... just as S?mee tears another piece of fabric and Hook realizes that is where the sound came from.

Eight bells ring and Hook announces that it?s ?Party Time? They all sing and dance around the Jolly Roger to ?We go together? from Grease! After the party, Hook calls for the children to be brought out on deck to walk the plank! Wendy too is brought out and held by a pirate while Hook tells the lost boys that he has room for 2 cabin boys.. each decline the offer citing that their mother wouldn?t let them. Hook skips the rest of the boys and asks John if he would like to be a pirate and he says yes and John asks Michael too who wants to have his own pirate name which hook gladly gives him. Both want to know if they will still honor the King.. ?Oh noooo? explains Hook as the children then refuse. Hook tells Wendy that she will be the first to die.. S?mee rushes over to ask to spare their mother! Wendy says she wouldn?t be their mother and would rather have no children at all! Hook tells her, OK? ?Schwick? then and is the first to walk the plank after given a chance for a final word to the lost boys. They all, even the pirates, break out in a chorus version of ?Rule Britainnia? waving miniature British flags much to Hook?s disgust.

Peter Pan flies in to save the day and duels with Hook. Eventually Hook is forced to the deck with Pan standing over him about to plunge his sword through him. Pan asks the audience ?Should I spare him?? and amidst the screams of the audience he decides to leave Hook to the tick-tock croc that has now appeared ready for dinner. Hook on his hands and knees backs away from the pursuing croc finally shouting ?This is no way for a gentleman to die?? and he and the croc exit stage left and plunge into the ?sea!?

The curtain call for Paul was full of enthusiastic boos, hisses, jeers and standing ovations for the great Captain. A tremendous performance! How wonderful it is to see him on stage after a 30 year absence.

The Panto concludes with the cast wishing all a Happy Holiday and New Year, and singing and dancing.

A must see for everyone from one to one hundred! No one could leave this Panto without sore ribs, a grande smile and joy in thier heart!

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