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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Peter Pan - El Musical
Garrick Theatre      Spring 2008

A hit in its native country, this Spanish musical version of J. M. Barrie's classic (with English surtitles) is in London for a month, and it is an oddity.

The production is perfectly pleasant, the songs are perfectly pleasant, the performances are perfectly pleasant, and yet the overall effect is bizarre.

I can certainly recommend this to Spanish-speaking parents to bring their children to, but for the rest of us its only attraction will be as an object lesson in the subtle but vast differences between cultures.

Some of this dislocation has to do with the differences in style and conventions between Spanish and Anglo-American musical theatre. The songs, for example, by several different composers and lyricists, all seem to consist of a single verse repeated anywhere from two to twenty times.

There is a truly strange sort-of-dance-ish thing for mermaids, and at the most exciting moment in the plot, when Peter must rush off to save Wendy and the Lost Boys from the pirates, the show stops dead for the longest musical number, an Indian war dance, and for one performer to come offstage to joke with individual members of the audience.

Tinkerbell's brush with death is milked for all it's worth, with a lachrymose song for Peter and the demand that we not just applaud to prove we believe in fairies, but stand up, lift small children on our shoulders and sing along in English and Spanish.

It is also a bit disconcerting to have Isabel Malavia's disturbingly grown-up looking Wendy sing sensually in the first scene of her hope that her midnight visitor will come again.

And director Cristina Fargas, who plays Mrs. Darling and doubles as narrator, has the vaguely eerie air of a 1950s TV Story Lady.

On the other hand, while Miguel Antelo's Peter is boyish and enthusiastic, Miguel Angel Gamero's Captain Hook isn't nearly camp enough, even though his pirate band all look like a weekday night at a gay disco.

The one very brief flying scene is the lamest I've ever encountered, and it would probably have been a good idea to run the surtitles past a native English speaker for proofreading.

My fourteen-year-old consultant, who has seen a lot of shows with me, pronounced this the strangest experience she's ever had in a theatre. And if that's what you're looking for . . . .

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of Peter Pan El Musical - Garrick Theatre 2008