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Well, you have to admire Phil Willmott’s ambition. The starting points for this musical are that the young soldiers in the trenches would have been brought up on Peter Pan and one of them was its creator J M Barrie’s adopted son George (who may have had a copy with him). Though set in the trenches, the show is in reality one long dream sequence involving Peter Pan and other characters from the book. Over-ambitious, perhaps?

There are some excellent songs and for me this is its greatest strength. They are, intentionally, in lots of styles, which didn’t really work for me as it made the show seem a bit of a musical ragbag. The dream includes Music Hall, Parisian clubs and a song about Jungian psychology of dreams (!) and though each were good on their own, they don’t make a cohesive whole. The choruses are particularly good, with the Act One closer a real high.

I liked the look of Philip Lindley’s set, with a Victorian wrought iron colonnade at the back and impressionistic trenches behind, but with this and the band on the left of the stage, it doesn’t leave much room for excellent choreographer Racky Plews to work with. The Finborough has looked less cramped before with more than twelve on stage. I suspect it will open out when it gets to Charing Cross Theatre.

There are some very good performances, most notably Joanna Woodward as Tinker Bell, though some of the less experienced cast members struggled a bit with the big demands of some of Willmott’s songs. I liked the keyboard / cello / clarinet arrangements and the three-piece band were well balanced with the cast.

Even though it was the night after press night it was only the fourth performance and it did feel like work-in-progress. At almost 2.5 hours, it doesn’t really sustain its length. It isn’t always a good idea for a writer to direct his own work; another director might have added some much needed criticality. It will no doubt improve and for once I think Charing Cross Theatre, though less intimate, may prove a better home for it. It’s probably too late to change much during this incarnation, but a rewrite might well bring out a very good musical that I felt was itself lost inside this.

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