Children Theatre Company’s production of the musical “Peter Pan” has all the classic story’s elements of fun and fantasy - pirates, poison, flying and fairy dust.
From the opening notes of Morris Charlap’s score, I was transported to the 1960s when, as a child, I saw Mary Martin play Peter Pan on my family’s black and white television set. Memories flooded back as Autumn Ness (as Mrs. Darling) sang “Tender Shepherd” with Wendy, John and Michael. As the lullaby ended and the Darling children were tucked in, however, one question remained … would these kids fly?
Oh, how they fly! Tyler Michaels as Peter Pan flits around the stage landing softly atop cabinets and mantelpieces, sprinkling fairy dust as he invites Wendy, John and Michael to join him in Neverland. And then off they go, all four of them, flying in a magical, musical transition to Neverland.
The transformation from the Darling nursery to Neverland is a wonder of stagecraft as set pieces magically move off the stage and Peter and the trio soar across the sky.
And Neverland is all that’s promised, full of amazing color of proportion. Giant trees and flowers are a treat for the eyes, and everyday elements (socks and books!) are incorporated into the set to add to the magic.
The classic script has enough silliness to tickle funny bones of any age, but CTC’s cast members infuse their own magic to push the humor to new heights. Tyler Michaels is the perfect Peter Pan with his youthful energy and strutting bravado. Alanna Saunders as Wendy complements Michaels’ eager enthusiasm as she embraces her new role as mother to the Lost Boys. Saunder’s pure, sweet soprano enchants as she sings “Distant Melody.”
Reed Sigmund, as Peter’s nemesis Captain Hook, is less a fierce pirate and more an endearing foe. Dean Holt, as Captain Hook’s sidekick Smee, works his physical comedy and wide smile to particularly connect with the audience. (He was my favorite!)
Hook’s comically fierce pirate gang charms the audience even as they offer poisoned cake to the Lost Boys or threaten to make them walk the plank. The pirates’ tango and tarantella numbers are show highlights.
Joe Chvala’s choreography is completely delightful. The Lost Boys’ “I Won’t Grow Up” is performed with large, colorful bouncing balls. And during “True Blood Brothers,” Peter Pan, the Lost Boys, Tiger Lily and the girls of Pounce form their alliance with a percussive hand-jive/stomp-style dance that is so much fun I did not want it to end.
CTC did its homework in preparing the classic story for today’s audiences. Native artists and educators were consulted to find solutions to the original story’s racist portrayal of Native Americans. The result brings us Tiger Lily and “Pounce,” a group of powerful and diverse girls who, along with the Lost Boys and pirates, inhabit Neverland.
Truly a story for all ages, the children seated around me were caught up in the magic of Peter, Tinker Bell and Neverland. The 7-year-old next to me spontaneously began to clap along with Peter and Tiger Lily during “True Blood Brothers.” A 6-year-old nearby sang along sweetly during “Distant Melody.”
But the production spoke to me in a different way. As a 50-something, when Peter declared, “I am youth, I am joy. I am freedom!” I heard it as a challenge to look for something daring and exciting in every day. It’s what keeps us young, right? Never grow up!