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A CurtainUp London Review
Lost Boy the musical opens with one of Barrie's adopted children, George Llewelyn Davies (Steven Butler), one of the five orphaned brothers who is a captain in the British Army and who we are told carried a small copy of Peter Pan with him. Captain Llewelyn Davies' story frames this musical, a dreamscape which explores what would have happened to Peter Pan, Wendy, the Lost Boys, Tinker Bell and Tiger Lilly if they had grown up in real time.
Wendy (Grace Gardner) is reunited with Peter Pan (Steven Butler). Peter is still a quirky, petulant child and she is a little mother, calm and assuring and obviously thrilled to see Peter again for the song "The Blue Lagoon", in this finely cast production. The circle widens and Peter meets up with the Lost Boys, now married and working in "offices." This sees the Lost Boys celebrating the end of the week in white ties and tails for the Friday night bash in "Lost Boys Reunion" in Kensington Gardens and brings Peter up to speed.
"Loving a Lost Boy" introduces Wendy to the Lost Wives Club, the women who have married the Lost Boys. What Wendy might be taking on with one of these men, who are still really childlike is explained as the women expand on their husbands' idiosyncrasies.
Peter and Wendy plan a wedding in "Marry Me" and Mr Darling (Andrew C Wadsworth) talks about parenting Wendy without his wife in "Loving a Lost Child." We meet Wendy's brothers: bespectacled John (Richard James-King) who we last saw flying in a top hat and pyjamas and Michael, the youngest Darling boy (Joseph Taylor) then in his blue onesy. John is rather geeky and studious in a tweed suit but Michael's story is altogether wilder and imaginative. Michael has rebelled and ends up at the Music Hall with a flying trapeze artist lover, Geronimo. "Michael's Song" is a highlight as he tells us "And I flew" recreating the excitement flying with Peter Pan and is beautifully choreographed by Racky Plews. Michael is lifted high up and his exuberant personality raises everybody's spirits.
The music hall scene extends to Captain Illusion (Andrew C Wadsworth) whose magic tricks are executed with one arm behind his back. "Smoke and Mirrors/Sleight of Hand" has the showgirls using silver fans to dance around the magician whom Wendy recognises from her past. Peter and Wendy's wedding is disrupted and without telling you how, a naughty fairy reappears (Joanna Woodward) whose sad fate without her wings is to make a living in the oldest profession. Her life is explored in "Slip Into Darkness".
Act Two opens with another witty standout song as the geeky John explains "Jungian Dream Analysis". I don't remember a song about psychoanalysis and getting collective unconsciousness into the lyric is clever, tying this up with our shadows (remember Peter had lost his and Wendy sewed it back on) while the cast behind grimace and writhe and threaten. This musical captures the personalities of the Darling children and perfectly transposes them to adult life with ideal casting completing the transition. "Dragons" sees Captain Hook in an opium den as he confronts his own shadows. To Paris with the Lost Boys who have joined the army for a burlesque number "Ooh La La" where we again meet Tiger Lilly (Natalie Lipin); lovely choreography in the Finborough's tiny space.
John leads the anti war protest with "Unite!" with a ballet sequence from Luka Marcus and Lauren Cocoracchio. The Lost Wives join a nursing corps tending to the wounded in France. The dream merges into nightmare and we return to Captain Llewelyn Davies' story in the trenches with a terrified soldier.
I liked the strong narrative arc for this sequel to Peter Pan with changes of scene and tempo providing vibrancy but remaining true to the original characterisation. The tuneful and varied songs incorporate ballads, music hall type numbers and spirited marches.
The performers work very hard. Their performances are in character, the singing is good and the three piece band dedicated. I especially admired Racky Plews' witty choreography. Joseph Taylor stands out as Michael with a huge personality, Steven Butler's Peter looks puzzled and is always expressive and Grace Gardner's Wendy has an elegant, grown up quality among the boys. The First World War context of Lost Boy strikes the evocative note of loss, the sad end to the "awfully big adventure".
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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