IVINS – Having been a Utah resident my entire life, it is surprising to many that I had never experienced the hype of a production at Tuacahn first hand before attending opening night of Peter Pan. Upon entering the amphitheater with expectations high, I was taken by the breathtaking backdrop that the red rock mountains provided behind and around the stage. That natural scenic element in itself creates a unique experience that cannot be had elsewhere. As the show began and the character of Peter Pan rose high above the ground in the distance, flying toward the stage and causing palpable excitement to stir in the air, my interests were piqued and I expected a show full of exhilarating spectacle.
Unfortunately, Tuacahn’s strong production with all the anticipated spectacle and wondrous effects could not hold my full attention with the outdated and at times lackluster script and musical numbers. Presumably not my “cup of tea,” Sir J. M. Barrie’s classic tale of Peter Pan was reimagined as a stage musical in 1954 with music by Mark Charlap and Jule Styne, and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green. The story of the young boy who refuses to grow up, his protective fairy, Tinkerbell, and the young girl named Wendy who takes on the mother figure for all of the lost boys in Neverland, has captivated audiences for over a century, particularly with the famous Disney film version. I wonder though, if it is time to put this story and its themes to rest.
Without becoming too bogged down in conversations of racial prejudices, cultural appropriation, and political correctness, it does seem overtly clear that the script is filled with sexist ideals rooted in an outdated culture that does not reflect today’s world. Not only do I find this potentially harmful, I believe it also aided in the boredom I felt from the show, as the “old-fashioned” nature of it was unfamiliar or disagreeable. These reservations and my personal tastes aside, the production was executed quite well, with professionality in acting, design, and technical effects.
Em Grosland, was perfect for the title role. He embodied a childish innocence and charm, as well as a fun and energetic persona that made him relatable as he realistically portrayed his character as a young boy that would never be content in an adult world. Kari Yancy, as Wendy, was equally skilled in her role. Her spirited and excited manner highlighted her youth, while she was able to keep a certain amount of maturity beyond her years, establishing her as a leader figure. Grosland and Yancy played well off of each other, creating a believable and intriguing chemistry, with a particularly tender moment at the end of the song “Neverland.” During the song “I’m Flying,” both actors elicit a magic as they glide above the stage, appearing as if they are actually flying. I also enjoyed the classic villain/sidekick relationship between Captain Hook (played by Aloysius Gigl) and Mr. Smee (played by Brian Calì), who added much of the humor to the show.
Every design aspect of Tuachan’s Peter Pan was impressive and precise, all individually working together to create a cohesive whole to truly enhance the worlds being created. It was refreshing to see such professional craftsmanship in the scenic design by Brad Shelton, as well as the seamless way the set pieces would move on and off stage to create a new scene or setting. The most remarkable aspect of Shelton’s set was the moving pirate ship. The lighting design by Joseph L. Eddy was very effective in bringing the setting to life, especially during the scenes on the pirate ship. As the light shone off of the rocks behind the set, they were disguised to look like moving water rocking back and forth, causing me to feel like I was actually on the ship with the characters. I also enjoyed the lighting effects associated with Tinkerbell, as small lights would bounce around the stage, indicating the small fairy’s location and mood.
Directed by Glenn Casale, the production was strong throughout, though I felt the first act was slow. This very well could have been due to a fairly large technical issue with the fly system that stopped the show for about twenty minutes. Although this was an unfortunate occurrence, I am confident that it is rare and I would encourage readers to not let this influence your decision to see Peter Pan, or any future Tuacahn productions. To a certain degree, technical glitches are unavoidable, even with the best equipment. I commend the company for the professional manner in which they handled the situation, treating the safety of the actors as the top priority, while also addressing and informing the audience. I appreciate the way the actors continued to carry on and stay in character during the mishap, and how they were able to pick back up and continue the show as if nothing had happened. After this, I did have a little trouble getting back into the story; however after a few minutes it proved to not be too distracting. The flight choreography done by Paul Rubin was astounding, and possibly the greatest appeal of this production. Lastly, Patti Colombo’s notable choreography created captivating and strong musical numbers to interest the audience and hold their attention.
While Peter Pan should potentially be reexamined and does not greatly appeal to me, Tuacahn has a high quality production that I know many people would enjoy. Peter Pan is a fun, family-friendly show that has elements that are perfect for children, even causing the adults to feel the nostalgic magic of childhood. If Peter Pan does sound like your “cup of tea,” Tuacahn offers a unique and memorable experience.