Lost Boy continues at the Charing Cross Theatre, London until 15 February.
The story of Peter Pan, the boy who refuses to grow up, continues to be re-interpreted by a number of theatre writers and directors.
In the past, productions such as Finding Neverland, Peter and the Starcatcher and Peter and Alice have adapted the tale of Peter Pan for the stage. More recently, the musical Peter Pan – the Never Ending Story made its debut at Wembley Arena, and now Phil Willmott’s new musical Lost Boy offers his ambitious take on JM Barrie’s classic piece (arriving at the Charing Cross Theatre from the smaller space at the Finborough).
Writer, director and composer Willmott, who has created a number of musicals for the fringe, continues to focus on ensemble pieces in his ambitious take on Peter Pan. The play initially focuses on Barrie, but then moves on to the life of Captain George Llewelyn Davies, a soldier in the Great War, who reimagines himself as Peter Pan.
The Lost Boys are mischievous city workers who enjoy fighting on a Friday. Wendy (Grace Gardner) is a polite woman who is controlled by her father, and Tinker Bell (Joanna Woodward) is now a London prostitute.
The premise of the musical is intriguing and Willmott works particularly well as a director, especially within the first half of the play. The meeting between the Lost Boys at the beginning of the piece is explosively shown as the cast races across the stage. Willmott’s staging also excels during the meeting between Peter and Tinker Bell.
However, the piece does have flaws. There are a number of confusing subplots which do not add unity to the narrative, and the book is uneven in places. Characters such as Peter Pan, Wendy, the Lost Boys and the Lost Wives are given long, unnatural dialogue which undermines the drama’s impact. Captain Hook’s arrival at the trenches is unnecessary and moves the action from the series to the silly.
Yet, the roles of Tinker Bell and John Darling benefit from direct and witty writing. Joanna Woodward, as Tinker Bell, easily switches from vulnerability to resilience, especially in her scenes with the impressionable Peter Pan (Steven Butler), as she tries to corrupt his childhood innocence.
The standout performer is Richard James-King who plays the eccentric, psychology student John Darling. James-King has great stage presence and is entertaining as he tries to deconstruct Peter Pan’s dreams at every opportunity.
The ensemble works well during ‘The Wedding’ and ‘Jungian Dream Analysis’ which are the most distinctive songs. The cast performs Racky Plews’ choreography enthusiastically during these upbeat numbers.
Lost Boy is a piece with potential, but would benefit from a tighter plot that truly explores the message at the heart of the production. What happens when we grow up?
Readers may also be interested in: New musical Lost Boy has season at two theatres