KAYSVILLE — Recently one of my friends asked me if there were any popular shows that I had not seen, and my first answer was that I had never seen a live production of the 1954 musical version of Peter Pan made so famous by Mary Martin in the title role. Therefore, when local HopeBox Theatre in Kaysville announced that this would be part of their season, I was excited to attend and see this production.
When I first got to glance at the program, I was disappointed that director Jan Williams‘s decision to have Peter Pan played by a male. While this is not unheard of, traditionally the role is played by a female, and the Utah theatre community has enough skilled females to fill leading roles, while looking for a strong male lead tends to be more of a challenge. This is not to state anything negative of the actor Dre Hay, who has a magnificent voice and portrayed Peter with an excellent balance of innocence and adventure. He developed the role well and I thoroughly enjoyed his performance. I just wondered what it might have been like to give a strong female the opportunity at the role.
The set design team of Heather Steed, Corinne Hoffmann, Trevor Wirth, and Wes Wright transformed the small stage at the Hopebox into a magical world. The first scene in J. M. Barrie‘s script is set in the nursery of the Darling family, and I found that it appeared as if the set had magically come off of the screen of an animated movie. When the set then changed to Neverland, it was just as entrancing, with the pirate ship lair and the places where the lost boys roamed.
Adding to the technical ambiance was the costume design by a team including Taya Christensen, Laura Malmstorm, Shantell Eisenbarth, Lexie Ostler, Lydia Jorgensen, Kelsey Porter, Lib Thatcher Marsch, and Caroline Whitmore. This team made beautiful dancer costumes and exciting pirate garb. And Peter’s costume was a perfect look for a boy who spent his life not growing up and playing among the trees in the forest. The Darling children also looked smashing in their costumes, especially Wendy (played by Micaela Morgan).
Morgan as Wendy could not have been better cast. Her voice was endearing and her whole persona enchanting. When Wendy sang “I’m Flying” with Peter and her brothers (played by Anson Young and Zack Abercrombie), I was thoroughly impressed with her vocal abilities and the ability of the full quartet to harmonize well. In any adaptation of Peter Pan, one of the most important characters is the notorious Captain Hook, played in this production by Stefan Kurzuis. Kurzuis had the appropriate swagger and confidence needed for such a role, and added to that a strong and captivating vocal quality. I was impressed with how well he handled the lyrical and rhythmic changes in the different dance like songs assigned to him, the “Tango,” “Tarantella,” and “Waltz.” His costume was also superb, and gave him the regal look that audiences have come to expect from the role.
As I watched the production, I realized that the script and score (music by Mark Charlap lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, additional lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and additional music by Jule Styne) have not aged well. While Zoe Hall was fantastic in the role of Tiger Lily, some of her dialogue and song (like “Ugg-a-Wugg”) were cringe-worthy in how they perpetuate stereotypes. I feel she as an actor handled the role with grace and precision, and it was a reminder to me that some of classic works are products of the time periods in which they were written.
One unexpected surprise within the show were the young cast members dressed up as animals, including Mia Trujillo as Nana in an elaborate costume. I also wish I could credit which child portrayed the famous crocodile, because the performance was so great to watch and the costume was my favorite.
As always, the mission at Hopebox is one of the best reasons for a community theatre to exist. In this production, the program details a young man who has battled leukemia for several years, and is still in treatment to beat the illness. Proceeds from the show, concessions, and donations will be used to help him through this trying time, which is a wonderful way to use the arts and community to help those in need.