Stage: Peter Pan on Ice – Teatro, Montecasino, Johannesburg
(until January 11, 2020)
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
ANOTHER glistening showcase for fun and masterful footwork is being presented by Pieter Toerien Productions at the Teatro at Montecasino, where Peter Pan on Ice runs until January 11 and is winning deservedly good reviews for its fine mix of skating excellence and visual spectacle.
Presented on a specially commissioned rink that fills the theatre stage, the show is by The Imperial Ice Stars, a Russian company that has entertained in 29 countries since its formation in 2004, and which has previously given South Africa Sleeping Beauty on Ice, Cinderella on Ice, Swan Lake on Ice and The Nutcracker on Ice.
Peter Pan on Ice is among the most remarkable of the bunch so far, and not only because it marks the first show from the company to feature original (recorded) songs and narration (by Emma Clarke, who might be recognised as the voice that issues instructions on the London Underground).
Also of note about this production is that, for the first time, its backdrop is a stage-length LED screen which, together with projected images on drops in the stage wings, offers high-quality video graphics, animated cinematic effects and 3D modelling. These depict detailed scenes – everything from aerial views of London and the island of Neverland, to forests, ponds, coves, a cave, the deck of the pirate ship and streets and homes. It’s well done.
A bonus is that, this being J M Barrie’s classic tale of the adventurous boy who never grows old and can also fly, the use of flying effects and aerial work plays a big role in drawing audience “oohs” and “aahs”.
Kudos to artistic director and choreographer Tony Mercer for making these technical challenges blend seamlessy with the skating. His tight direction is such that, even though harnesses and wires are seen on stage, they are neatly blended into the action to never intrude on, nor slow down, the story, or hamper the performers.
The Imperial Ice Stars always go that extra mile to inject into their marvellous skating many daring tricks and gimmicks that one seldom sees elsewhere, and this year is no exception.
The audience is treated to everything from novel somersaults and splits to tumbles and twists, as well as many daring lifts and frenetic spins. Some spins have performers going at dizzying speeds while held by the arm or arms, and we even get performers who are spun at great speed while their skates are clasped behind another performer’s neck.
There are some superb synchronised routines, many fine solos, a crowd-pleasing scene involving a circle of fire, and an exciting finale which has each artist trying to outdo the next with special skills.
Stars among an excellent team of 23 former World, European and National Championship-level skaters include agile Bogdan Berezenko, in the name role, and an amusing and versatile Olga Sharutenko as frisky fairy Tinker Bell, whose arrival in a cape of changing fairylights is quite a showstopper.
Special mention must also go to Inna Horbachova as Wendy, Diana Sterliadkina as a very acrobatic Tiger Lily, and the husband and wife team of Ukrainian former medallist Volodymyr Khodakivskyy and his South African-born wife, Fiona Kirk. They first appear as the parents of the Darling children, who are whisked away to Neverland by Peter Pan, but also do some excellent aerial work as pirates.
The show has many highlights, not least those involving the snarling Captain Hook (Mikhail Kirsanov) cavorting with his pirate clan, sword-fighting with Peter Pan or trying to escape the clutches of a crocodile (Kirill Polnikov). The croc, which has its own dance number in the show, perhaps more resembles a dinosaur-meets-Creature-from-the-Black-Lagoon, but delights the audience every time he appears on the ice.
Peter Pan on Ice was expanded for its debut in South Africa from a 50-minute family show presented last year at the for Hyde Park Winter Wonderland in London. It is performed to recorded, original orchestral music and features impressive, clever costumes designed by Tony Mercer in collaboration with Veronique Pasternak.
The show is in Johannesburg until January 11. Performances are at 7.30pm Tuesdays to Fridays, at 3pm and 7.30pm on Saturdays, and at 2pm and 5.30pm on Sundays. Booking is at Computicket.