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Stars hooked at opening night

IT is a long way from 'Neverland' but Dublin was the setting for the world premiere of a new stage musical of Peter Pan last night.

And sensational flying sequences, aerial fight scenes, and an 18ft crocodile puppet are just some of the stunning visual effects employed in the lavish production which tells the tale of the boy who wouldn't grow up.

The new musical take on the JM Barrie classic stars former 'Family Fortunes' presenter Les Dennis, TV actor Ben Richards, along with Daniel Boys as Peter, who found fame on BBC reality show 'Any Dream Will Do'.

West End producer Michael Rose said his cast had initially been "terrified" at the prospect of premiering their musical in Dublin.

"But the people of Dublin have really embraced us. We've spent the last week here in rehearsals and we couldn't have imagined the warmth of their welcome," Mr Rose said last night before the curtain went up.

He revealed that key to the decision in choosing Dublin for the world premiere was the setting of the Grand Canal Theatre, to which he brought touring West End musical 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' last year.

"To me the Grand Canal is the best theatre in the whole of Ireland and Britain. I wish we could replicate it in the UK, because it's one of the best new modern theatres I have seen in decades, designed for both public and professional in mind."

The great and the good were 'hooked'. Among the first night audience were Westlife star Nicky Byrne and wife Georgina with twins Jay and Rocco and their grandmother Miriam Ahern, Georgina's mother -- and Gay Byrne came with wife Kathleen Watkins and their grandchildren. RTE star Pat Kenny was there with his wife Kathy and their daughters Nicole and Kristina while Joe Duffy also came with his daughter Ellen.


They and the rest of the audience were left amazed by a flying system, costing e100,000, which propelled Peter Pan and pals over their heads and around the theatre.

"The twins are very excited. I think it's brilliant that Ireland gets the first performance and the producers wanted to stage the world premiere here in Dublin," Nicky Byrne said.

Luckily the flying device suffered none of the technical problems which have plagued poor Spider-Man in U2's musical on Broadway.

'Peter Pan the Musical' also involves some local talent.

Last March more than 300 children turned up for auditions to play one of the main roles in the production, that of Michael Darling.

Co Louth schoolboy Jack Synott ended up winning the part which saw him join another Irish-born cast member, Maureen Nolan of the Nolan Sisters, on stage last night.

"If you want cheering up come to see us. This is pure escapism. You will come out of 'Peter Pan' feeling much better than when you came in. And we're a lot cheaper than therapy," joked producer Mr Rose.

Tickets start from €20 and the show runs until August 6.

Irish Independent