This month, Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Smee and the Darling family are taking the second star to the right and straight on till Blackpool for the brand new staging of JM Barrie’s literary classic at the Opera House.
Starring TV star Jennifer Ellison as Captain Hook and Dancing On Ice 2018 contestant, and X Factor and I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here star Jake Quickenden in the title role, Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure has been specially written for the festive season in Blackpool.
Also starring are Radio Wave breakfast host Scott Gallagher as Hook’s sidekick and resort actress Maureen Nolan as Mrs Darling.
Produced by the award-winning Selladoor Family, the show will follow the boy who never grew up as - along with Wendy, John and Michael Darling - he takes on the villainous Captain Hook and her merry band of pirates, with lost boys and a feisty fairy all adding to the adventure.
“I was delighted when I was asked to adapt Peter Pan as the story is so strong and everyone has a version of Hook in their mind,” writer Robert Marsden said.
“There’s so much of Peter and Hook out there; films, other books, there’s even been a sequel film.
“Most people have a link to it in some way, so it’s a real honour to tell it through a fresh set of eyes.
“Obviously one real difference in our version is that Captain Hook is a woman, and that came from Selladoor. And that’s a wonderful thing in theatre in 2017, thinking outside the box, we’ve just had a female Malvolio in Twelfth Night, a female Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island.
“A lot of these adventure stories were written at a certain time, for a certain audience so naturally they had male characters at the fore.
“But in Hook, it’s the idea of ‘someone’ who has been wronged by Pan who is out for revenge and justice.
“To be able to give that character and challenge to someone like Jen - with her strong connections to the North West too - is really going to work well. There’s different songs you can consider and bringing out different qualities and sides of the character.”
And while Hook is often regarded as the ‘typical’ bad guy of the tale, Robert’s enjoyed bringing out the strength of Wendy as another woman in Pan’s life, and the different aspects of the hero’s personality.
“I found it really interesting in re-reading JM Barrie’s novel is he writes Pan as good and bad,” Robert said. “He’s not just a straight down the line hero.”
As well as challenging gender roles, Robert has played with time in the new version of the tale, with flashback scenes introducing resort actress Maureen Nolan as Mrs Darling.
“Time is often mentioned in the novel, so we have really played with time in the piece,” he explained. “Neverland’s time is really mixed up, it’s not 24:7, 365, but we’ve played with it in the ‘real world’ of our version too.
“Maybe I should give this as a spoiler alert, but we don’t start in the nursery as is typical with Peter Pan, in the 1900s Edwardian England, instead we start at a later time and go backwards.
“Doing this helps us play with the generations in the story too; as well as Mrs Darling and her daughter Wendy, there’s also her daughter Jane, so three generations of the Darling family, which is lovely.
“Memory is also a big thing in the original, people forget they’ve been to Neverland, so we can look at how these three generations remember their adventures in Neverland.”
Selladoor not only commissioned Robert to create the story for a fresh new audience, but specified they wanted it to be a bespoke story for the Blackpool audience in 2017.
Although often seen as a pantomime tale at this time of year, Robert confirms that Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure is not a panto and is a piece of family-friendly theatre.
“This isn’t panto, but it has to feel fresh and contemporary to create a musical adventure; that was the brief I was given,” he said.
“In Blackpool, you have a fantastic audience who love their theatre and entertainment and Selladoor and the Winter Gardens wanted a sharp, brand-new take on the story.
“The story of Peter Pan is a story children and young people want to invest in. They know the story, but at the same time we have to assume they’ve never seen it too.
“There’s the challenge of getting all the original J M Barrie moments in - flying, mermaids, pirates, and battles between Hook and Peter Pan. And all those key moments of dynamic adventure are in, with the story built around them.”
While staying faithful to the original novel, the team behind the Opera House production have ensured the new telling of the tale fits into Blackpool as a bespoke theatrical experience.
“Blackpool is like a kind of Neverland; a place people come to for adventure,” Robert said.
“Jess Curtis, the designer, has given a really lovely, clear perspective of Blackpool in the whole design of Pan and Hook’s world.
“The show is specific to Blackpool this year. It’s been written for the town and for the venue.
“As a writer or director, in a town for five or six weeks during the Christmas season, your audience want their town to be reflected back to them in some way.
“Regardless of whether you’re seven or 70 there will be something in this for you.
“There has to be enough for the kids to laugh and enjoy it, but then also enough for the parents and grandparents bringing them.
“There’s chart and contemporary, as well as traditional music. We’ve found things which really fit into the moment of the piece, with beautiful versions and re-orchestrations so they feel a real part of Peter Pan.”
Between Robert and the creative team, all the magic of Neverland will be brought to life, with characters flying, going under water to the mermaids’ lagoon and being captured by Tinkerbell’s fairy spells too.
“The exciting thing for the audience is to see how we are going to create those moments and interpret the magic; we want people to be excited to see it, and for the magic to come off the stage and into the auditorium.”
So prepare to be captured by the spell of theatre in this new show Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure, at the Opera House, Blackpool, from Saturday, December 16 to Sunday, January 7.
Visit www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk or call 0844 856 1111 to book.
Win one of 3 Family Tickets to Peter Pan at the Winter Gardens
What animal is always following Captain Hook ?
a Shark b octopus c crocodile
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Closes friday 8th Dec
2 For 1 tickets to Peter Pan
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Excludes Dec 16, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
Book online at www.wgbpl.co.uk or Tel 0844 856 1111