Reviewed by James Karas
Ross Petty is shameless. For twenty years he has used and mostly abused fairy tales to produce riotous laughter, ferocious theatrical energy and enthusiasm to make all competitors green with envy.
This year he takes on Peter Pan (again) and sends him Wonderland (no, not Canada’s, Alice’s, if you please) in a show that has all the characteristics mentioned in the first paragraph.
Petty revels in playing the “bad guy” and in Peter Pan in Wonderland he is none other than Captain Hook. The audience is informed, indeed provoked, to boo the nasty Captain at every opportunity and young and adult alike relish every opportunity to do so. Petty speaks directly to the audience, goes off on tangents, overacts and stops at nothing to get a laugh. He is a very funny man and the laughs come pouring in.
Ross Petty as Captain Hook Photo: Racheal McCaig Photography
Dan Chameroy is another hilarious performer as Tinkerbum. Dressed in drag with hair that looks like a couple of dried haystacks, Chameroy sports a riotous accent and movements that never failed to provoke laughter. He does not get as much stage time as Petty but his every appearance is a delight.
In addition to Tinkerbum, we have Tweedle Dum (Eddie Glen who doubles as a funny Smee) and Tweedle Dummer (Jessica Holmes who also has the more substantial role of Queen of Hearts). The Mad Hatter (Lamar Johnson), the Cheshire Cat (Taveeta Szymanowicz) are also there.
Peter Pan (Anthony MacPherson) is an energetic and agile young boy who can fly, sing and perform acrobatics. He does leave his home base of Neverland and ends up in Wonderland. Captain Hook is there up to no good, as you may suspect, and he wants to marry the Queen.
Alice is there as well and Jordan Clark who plays the part is able to belt out songs and dance with marvelous energy but that is just the beginning. The girl can perform acrobatics that would give those Russian Olympians pause. This is an athletics showcase as much as a musical.
Dan Chameroy as Tinkerbum, Anthony MacPherson as Peter Pan.Photo: Racheal McCaig Photography
The dancers are just as athletic and amazing in the numbers by choreographer Marc Kimelman. The sets and costumes by Michael Gianfrancesco are a riot of colour and a perfect background for the show.
Petty (again shamelessly) incorporates commercials in the production. The Toronto Star, Hilton Hotel and Sick Children’s Hospital put on ads. He has enough sense to make the commercials fit the show by garnering a few laughs while satisfying the sponsors.
The humour goes all over the place. Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau, The Maple Leafs, the Blue Jays and others are all included in Petty’s insatiable search for laughs.
Singing, dancing, broad comedy, some political satire, slapstick, a plot built on two familiar stories, both fractured to good effect – that is a major achievement. Add to that the energy provided by the audience. Everyone one seemed to be on a sugar-high, screaming, booing, laughing, applauding.
There is no by-line in the programme but Chris Earle gets credit as the writer near the end of the credits and well after FLYING BY FOY. He cribbed Lewis Carroll and J. M. Barrie, of course. The choreographer is listed at the bottom. I suppose this is the Ross Petty Show and everyone lines up behind him.
Mr. Petty, you should be ashamed of yourself for abandoning ship after only twenty years of great shows!