'Peter's Final Flight' written by Matt Murray. 'The PAN-tastical Family Musical'
Onstage at Toronto's Elgin Theatre in association with Crow's Theatre
Bruce Zinger. The principal cast
Walk, run, or rush NOW to get tickets for this Ross Petty panto. ‘Peter’s Final Flight’ remains one helluva of an airborne ride which became nostalgically and rightfully sentimental at the end.
Judging from the standing ovation he was given at the top of the opening night show and again at the conclusion, Petty appeared momentarily and emotionally overwhelmed with such tremendous, respectful, and loving admiration from all of us. Change is extremely hard when there is a loss of something that has become a beloved part of our lives for many years.
But, ever the professionals, Director Tracey Flye (who sat in front of me) confidently took visionary control of this helluva of an airborne ride and steered it with purely unabashed comical and delightful joy. Executive Producer Petty grandly plays the infamous Captain Hook with exuberant and wickedly gleeful abandonment. I even heard he came out of retirement to do it.
Along for the ride are some of Canada’s finest artists whom you must, I repeat MUST, see on the Elgin Theatre stage before the production closes as they magnificently understand the nuances and timing that are necessary for any pantomime to work its magic successfully.
Dan Chameroy returns as the loveably loopy and adorably bonkers Plumbum who somehow manages to have her fanny pack of fairy dust stolen amid all the hilarious goofy goings on. Eddie Glen beautifully becomes an at times charming, smart-ass and doofus sidekick, Smee, to Helga Hook. To avenge her husband’s death at the hands of a crocodile, Sara-Jeanne Hosie’s Helga is a sassy scoundrel(ess). Her and Glen’s wise-ass adlibs and back-and-forth banter are pure comic genius gold.” Alex Wierzbicki’s high-voltage performance as Peter is one to keep an eye on in future. He’s quite the energetic dancer. Stephanie Sy is cheeky as Erika and Wendy. And what a set of pipes she has in her solo number. Like Wierzbicki, she too is a terrific dancer.
The production’s prime quality ensemble of Eric Abel, Mariah Campos, Bonnie Jordan, Tyler Pearse, Conor Scully, and Genny Sermonia kick up their heels in perfectly timed choreographed dance moments to some recognizable and specially arranged pop tunes by Bob Foster.
Matt Murray’s cleverly fantastical story begins on a natural note. We’re at the final dress rehearsal of ‘Peter Pan’. A dazzling dance routine to introduce the story opens the production where the suddenly magical appearance of Wierzbicki (playing the impish boy who doesn’t want to grow up) flies into the Darling children’s bedroom. The rehearsal stops because kooky Erika (who plays Wendy) can’t get off her iPhone and missed her line with Peter. Tracey Flye’s voice-over direction calls for a lunch break for the cast to compose themselves where they will start again from where they left off.
Plumbum appears and goofily mistakes Wierzbicki who’s playing Peter Pan for the real Peter Pan and convinces him to return to Neverland. According to a release I received: “Ever since Peter Pan defeated Captain Hook, Neverland has enjoyed a long run of peace, quiet and lawn bowling mostly thanks to Plumbum’s magic cloaking spell, which has kept the island hidden from the villains of the world. Unfortunately, while trying to log into her Netflix account, Plumbum accidentally shut down the cloaking spell and revealed their location. With Neverland now exposed, Hook’s wife Helga, and her inherited sidekick Smee, have returned to avenge her husband, defeat Peter Pan, and destroy the legendary Heart Of Neverland.”
Through piecing together a map which is then snatched away by Helga only to have the pictured copy deleted on the iPhone by Plumbum, this is where Matt Murray’s zany and whacky story whisked me away to a Neverland I’ve never experienced before.
There’s an old saying – ‘half of the fun is getting there’. This so aptly describes Murray’s creatively innovative script. When we finally arrive in Neverland, the ribald puns, the double entendres, and the ever-so-coy sexual references abound aplenty. There’s much to keep the children attentive with the cheers for the heroes and boos for the villains while the adults will thankfully never have to explain why they were laughing so ridiculously out of control.
What are some of the moments where I laughed so hard? For one, I especially liked the gentle poking fun at Ross Petty’s wife, Karen Kain, who according to Helga, had probably fallen asleep during the show. The ensemble members who became the Karsplashians perfectly reflected the vacuousness of that bunch. Additionally, a perfectly timed zinger about the state of attending Canadian-produced theatre evoked much laughter. Even Chameroy’s adlib of a tree leaf getting in his way with a reference to toilet paper sealed the deal for me.
Michael Gianfrancesco’s stunning set design and Cameron Davis’s impactful projection designs are primo throughout the entire show. I especially liked the opening where Plumbum whisks Peter away. I laughed because the projection design reminded me of the Gale farmhouse being sucked up in the cyclone from the 1939 film version of the ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Only this time, it felt like I was tripping out on acid because the designs of the projection become weirdly entrancing. I must acknowledge Davis once again because a good decision was made when the set had to be changed for the next scene. When that occurred, a screen was lowered (like the film screens for TIFF) and we watched either Plumbum, Captain Hook or a commercial for one of the sponsors of this production featuring the said named characters. Jareth Li’s splendid lighting design focuses on the quaintness of these new surroundings of Neverland. Ming Wong’s sublime costume designs delineate the characters. Chameroy’s Plumbum dress is a fantastic cross between the clothing of the late comedian Phyllis Diller and the splendid gaudiness of the colours of the old Honest Ed’s restaurants on King Street.
Vocally, the production remains in tip-top shape throughout the two-and-a-half-hour running time. I’m a stickler for hearing lyrics, especially since they have been cleverly arranged and orchestrated by Bob Foster. Tracey Flye and Jennifer Mote’s at-time athletic choreography left me breathless in watching the ensemble master the moves with adept ease.
‘Peter’s Final Flight’ is another must-see go-to this Christmas and holiday season. A winner! An absolute winner. If you haven’t or never experienced a pantomime in the way it should be performed, this is one to see before it closes on January 7, 2023.
Final Comments: I couldn’t help but feel a tad sentimental at the conclusion of Ross Petty’s Toronto Christmas/holiday tradition that has become a treasured moment at the theatre.
Thank you, Ross, for the gift of laughter, music, and fun. Very much appreciated as we move forward slowly out of these trying times.
Running time: approximately two hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.
‘Peter’s Final Flight’ runs to January 7, 2023, at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge Street, Toronto. For tickets: am.ticketmaster.com or call TO LIVE at 1-800-708-6754 / 416-366-7723.
Visit rosspetty.com or tolive.com for more information.
PETER’S FINAL FLIGHT The Pan-tastical Family Musical written by Matt Murray
In Association with Crow’s Theatre
Director: Tracey Flye
Set Designer: Michael Gianfrancesco
Music Director, Arrangements and Orchestrations: Bob Foster
Lighting Designer: Jareth Li
Projection Designer: Cameron Davis
Costume Designer: Ming Wong
Choreographed by Tracey Flye and Jennifer Mote
Stage Manager: Lisa Humber
Performers: Dan Chameroy, Eddie Glen, Sara-Jeanne Hosie, Ross Petty, Stephanie Sy, Alex Wierzbicki, Eric Abel, Darren Burkett, Mariah Campos, Sierra Holder, Bonnie Jordan, Tyler Pearse, Conor Scully, Genny Sermonia.