If sitting through a low-budget musical sequel to JM Barrie’s ‘Peter Pan’ sounds less appealing than being devoured by a man-eating crocodile then, er, you’ll probably find plenty to dislike about ‘Lost Boy’.
However, its composer and director, the prolific Phil Willmott, has hit on at least one strong idea: suggesting the bloodthirsty glee of Pan and his posse of Lost Boys wasn’t just a childish phase but an Edwardian malaise. Set 11 years after Barrie’s 1904 play, ‘Lost Boy’ has the formerly immortal Peter (Steven Butler) entering the real world, where he reconnects with his old chums Michael, John, Slightly, Nibs and Tootles and gees them up to hurl themselves at German guns with all the élan they once summoned to terrorise Neverland’s pirate population. Only here, of course, there are consequences.
It’s an intriguing set up that occasionally resonates powerfully, but for the most part Willmott obfuscates the considerbale potemtial of ‘Lost Boy’ with tawdry melodrama and indulgent detail.
A ludicrously overwrought Peter-Wendy-Tinker Bell love triangle tramples over the more thoughtful undercurrents, and the two hours of ‘Lost Boy’ are overstuffed with 24 vaudeville-styled pop songs, with almost everyone in the sprawling cast getting a solo number of some sort, many completely tangential to the story.
The sublime silliness of John’s OTT second half opener ‘Jungian Analysis Dream’ offers a brief vision of how fun ‘Lost Boy’ might have been if it weren’t so hidebound by soap operatic portentousness. It also suggests that the show might benefit from its imminent transfer to the larger Charing Cross Theatre, where Racky Plews’s choreography ought to have more room to breathe. Still, I don’t believe this ‘Boy’ is ever going to fly.