Archive for Thursday, November 29, 2007

Peter Pan’ a magically manic musical

November 29, 2007

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A well-filled house, including many enthusiastic children, was entertained by Wednesday's performance of "Peter Pan."

The sturdy Brooke Stone strutted and capered her way through the lead role, giving the part a manic, almost hostile energy that underlined the character's defiance of normal life. Stone's interpretation made Peter into a Puck figure, not quite human and out of sympathy with adult humans, although magically enchanting to children.

Her strong voice was well suited to the musical demands of the part, and - more than usual in musicals - she made the songs seem to follow naturally from the dialogue. Her flying scenes, and those of the Darling children, were spectacular and admirable in their precision. It can't be easy to land lightly and smoothly atop the furniture. ZFX Flying Effects expertly handled the difficult behind-the-scenes work.

Gary Kimble as Captain Hook was wonderfully villainous, cheerfully planning the death of the Lost Boys and the enslavement of Wendy, yet he kept the character in the realm of make-believe, not so genuinely menacing as to frighten young viewers. His song-and-dance numbers with the alternately roguish and inept pirates were among the evening's highlights. In accordance with tradition, he also played Mr. Darling, whose bluster anticipates the temperament of Captain Hook.

Mollie Vogt-Welch made a credible Wendy, gracefully projecting the femininity absent but needed in Neverland. Her handling of the role made it clear, to both the audience and the Lost Boys, that it's all very well to rebel and refuse to grow up, but that ultimately the game must end.

Talented dancer and comic actress Brooke Robyn Dairman played the Indian princess Tiger Lily, and turned up the heat each time she and her tribe appeared on stage for one of their well-choreographed numbers. Her "Ugg-a-Wugg," with Peter, the children, and the Indians, was a distinct crowd-pleaser.

Frankie Gabriel as the diminutive Smee was a comic genius, effortlessly stealing scenes from even the formidable Captain Hook. He played the part broadly but exquisitely, wringing laughs from a mincing step or a cocked eyebrow.

Animals, or animal costumes, are always a hit onstage, and the movements of the Lion, Kangaroo, and Ostrich - to say nothing of the ticking Crocodile - charmed the audience. And the improbable but splendidly furry nurse Nana, woofing her way through the opening and closing scenes, was a favorite.

Sets (also by ZFX) were exceptionally well-made: a suitably posh Kensington nursery, a rustic and mysterious Neverland, and a salty pirate ship. Audience participation enlivened the evening on two occasions. First those present were asked to save Tinkerbell's life by clapping to show they believed in fairies (deafening applause). Later, Peter invited the audience to "learn to crow" along with Wendy, and hundreds of voices obliged.

Director Jeffrey Moss made a coherent show out of a book that could fragment in less capable hands. Choreography was clearly in good hands with Connie Shafer, whose intricate pirate/Indian/Lost Boy sequences showed an expert touch. Jay Kawarsky conducted the orchestra through the evening's 20 musical numbers.

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