BY TAMAR NEUMANN: Peter Pan has always held a magical place in our hearts since it first took the stage. I think it’s because Peter Pan, the boy, reminds us all of the innocence of childhood. Either that, or we all just wish we had the ability to fly. In any case, Peter Pan continues to be performed with one of the most recent and famous productions being the live musical on NBC. I did not have the pleasure of watching that particular show, but I did have the pleasure of attending The Children’s Theatre Company’s most recent production of Peter Pan. And while Peter Pan is a challenging show to stage because we all bring our own ideas of what it should look and sound like, the CTC has managed to tackle that task with bravery and gusto.
All the magic of Peter Pan is captured in their production. There is fairy dust, flying, pirates, crocodiles, and lost boys. The sets, designed by Walt Spangler, and the costumes, designed by Linda Cho, come together to create both dreary England and a bright, fairy-filled Neverland. One of the more interesting scenic decisions are the trees. They are made of hundreds of white socks and while that may sound somewhat odd it manages to be quite beautiful. At first you may not notice they are socks, but once you realize the leaves on all the branches are white athletic socks it seems to remind you of the childlike atmosphere of Neverland. Or of all your lost socks—a symbol of the lost boys, perhaps? But then again, I may have just spent too much time looking for metaphors and deeper meanings. Nonetheless it is a creative use for socks and it looks incredible.
This being the musical version of Peter Pan you are never far off from a song and dance number. While most of them are your typical heartfelt tune or romping good time, there are a couple that impress with their choreography and rhythm. Both Joe Chvala (Choreographer) and Denise Prosek deserve commendations for their hard work on the dancing and singing.
But their songs would be less impressive without the hard work of the actors. Each actor in this ensemble manages to work together to create a forceful musical. Wendy, played by Alanna Saunders, manages to capture both the maturity and sweetness of the Wendy character we all fell in love with when we first heard this story. She is the mother to us all. Although, I’ve always wondered why Wendy wants to escape to a world where no one grows up, but then chooses the role of mother where she has to make sure everyone gets fed, bathed, and put to bed. It doesn’t seem like a lot of fun to me. That’s probably why she wanted to go back home to her own mother!
Speaking of grown-ups, the pirates provide a lot of comic relief throughout the play, but no one provides more relief that Dean Holt as Smee. Smee is the character you can’t help feeling sorry for, but in this case, Holt gives Smee enough of a personality to make him seem much less obsequious than usual toward Captain Hook. It provides a nice dynamic between the two characters.
The play wraps up with the classic sword fight between Captain Hook (Reed Sigmund) and Peter Pan (Tyler Michaels). Both Sigmund and Michaels manage to capture the grumpiness of age and the fieriness of youth respectfully. They battle to the death, with youth eventually winning. And maybe that’s why we all love this play—it renews our desire for the age-old quest of immortality and the fountain of youth. Old age is boring. It’s grumpy. Bring on the litheness and endless possibilities of youth. Wouldn’t we all like to return to a time where anything was possible and our dreams had yet to be dashed?
Peter Pan The Musical, musical based on the play by Sir J.M. Barrie, lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, additional lyrics by Bettry Comden and Adolph Green, music by Morris (Moose) Charlap, additional music by Jule Styne, originally directed and choreographed and adapted by Jerome Robbins, directed by Peter Rothstein, choreographer Joe Chvala, music director Denise Prosek. April 21- June 21 2015 at the Children’s Theatre Company, 2400 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis. Tickets: $10 and up; purchase tickets at www.childrenstheatre.org or 612.874.0400.