With winter holidays on the near horizon and a cozy festive feeling in the air, there’s no more light-hearted family treat than a colorful pantomime – and Belfast’s historic Grand Opera House is hosting with one with a difference.
While this year’s show is the enticing fairy tale of ‘Peter Pan’ by author J.M. Barrie and the fantasy world of Neverland, executive producer Jonathan Kiley and his skilled team have added a special feature that’s sure to make you gasp with delight. Without giving away too many details, suffice it to say, it is an exciting use of latest 3D technology. So vociferous is audience reaction, from adults as well as kids, passersby on the main street outside probably hear the cries of exhilaration.
Aside from the introduction of this 3D element, the show itself is a fast-moving one filled with, comic interplay, flamboyant costumes and terrific scenery. Special mention goes to Mike Coltman in the specialty costumes department who has exceeded expectations with his creative designs, including a giant gorilla and a jaw-dropping crocodile that seems to leap out from the stage.
A talented cast is led by long-running panto dame May McFettridge, one of the best-known comedy performers in Ireland. May plays the role of Mary Smee with carefree aplomb and bucket-loads of witty mischief and naughtiness. She is also a natural raconteur and manages effortlessly to warming up an audience and engage it directly in the action.
In contrast to May’s character, seasoned actor David Bedella conveys, with piercing eyes not to mention appropriate menacing tone, the nasty nature and sheer craftiness of the devilish Captain Hook. Enjoying a successful stage, television and film career, with a Laurence Olivier Award under his belt, Bedella teases his audience endlessly with his nefarious plans to destroy his arch enemy, the young flighty Peter, played by Mikey Jay-Heath. Trained at the Urdang Academy, Jay-Heath personifies both the innocence of the boy who doesn’t want to grow up and the fearless leader who tackles the evil pirate.
An added dimension to the entertainment is the diverse character impressions by Paul Burling, a popular radio and television performer, who plays Starkey, a member of Hook’s crew. A touch of celebrity glamor comes in form of shapely Claire King as the smoldering, sexy Mimi the Magical Mermaid. King gained recognition as manipulative Kim Tate in the British soap opera ‘Emmerdale’ as well as the prison drama ‘Bad Girls,’ and other television series such as ‘Holby City’ and ‘Casualty.’ She also starred alongside Jerry Hall in ‘The Vagina Monologues.’
Belfast actor Paddy Jenkins, who has acted in HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ as well as BBC productions, stage and film, complements McFettridge as her on-stage husband Smee, plotting a rebellion to overthrow Captain Hook. Other fine supporting actors who help create a hearty seasonal family show include Kweeva Garvey as Wendy, Natalie Winsor as Tiger Lily and Hollie O’Donoghue as Tinker Bell.
It would be amiss not to mention a surprising, hilarious – and rather breathless – song and dance routine featuring Mimi, Smee, Starkey and Mary Smee that keeps the audience enthusiastically engaged even after the curtain comes down.