OREM — The Scera has long been a family friendly theater, known for giving a chance to budding actors and actresses, and their show Peter Pan is a great example of them doing just that. There are 21 cast members in this show, and it runs roughly 2.5 hours. When it started, I wished I had brought my 6-year-old. When it was finally over, I was glad I hadn’t.
What amazed me, as usual with the Scera, was the set, designed by Shawn Mortensen. The colors painted to show mermaid lagoon and the artistic work for Neverland’s pirate ship were beautiful and engaging. I loved the nursery with the enormous windows that admitted entry to Peter. The gnarly trees used in the woods scene were interesting. I appreciated the bed coloring and how stark a contrast it was between the boys’s beds and Wendy’s bed. I especially liked how they re-purposed Nana’s house for Wendy’s cute, makeshift home. The real waterfalls in Neverland that were falling from a great height on either side of the stage were simply magnificent. There was so much detail to the set that I kept studying it before the show began and during the show. The crocodile was enormous, and I counted 10 people underneath the huge set piece who were carrying it and puppeteering it. The red glowing eyes of the crocodile were very creepy.
Mortensen also directed the show, and it made me wonder if he had too much on his plate, because many of the scenes were less than interesting. Peter’s (Kevin Bigler) two songs in the nursery near the beginning of the show were boring, and I wasn’t sure why he didn’t have more blocking to spice up the scenes. There were little incongruities like Peter’s shadow being mimed and Hook’s dancers not dancing much or not being in the rhythm of each type of dance Hook called for. I wished they had dressed the women pirates up like men, because it seemed contradictory to what the pirates needed to accomplish; the big skirts just didn’t fit. Mortensen had Smee (Kendall Bowman) beat his stomach to represent the Native American Tom Tom sound, and that added creative humor and was a good choice by Mortensen. This show could go from slightly boring to extremely fun with some key directions to help things make more sense. His casting choices also confused me: John Darling (Cameron Ward) and Wendy (Ella Child), who were supposed to be children, were very tall. Child performed well in the role of Wendy, and had a beautiful voice, but her voice was so low, I thought she was much older than the character needed to be. When Liza (Kristin Young) and Nana (Lily Elison) came to check on the nursery, the children all hid behind curtains and stuff in the room but not in their own beds, which would be the most natural thing to do. Liza said, “See, they’re all asleep in bed,” which seemed ludicrous as the beds were empty. Many of these directing choices were simply confusing.
The acting was good in many ways. Bigler as Peter was able to hold his own onstage, though I wish his being pulled into the air to “fly” could have been more natural. Bigler did extremely well in the fight scene with Nathaniel Noyes, who played Captain Hook and Mr. Darling. Noyes was true to both his characters, and they were classic. Noyes was a bit slow on his lines, but I assumed that was for the children’s sake. Karen Milne who played both the roles of Mrs. Darling and the Ostrich, sang such a lovely solo at one point, I was drawn back into the story after being distracted by mosquitoes and forgot all about bites. Young was also a breath of fresh air, with her hilarious reactions to Neverland and her skills in fighting as a boxing kangaroo. She even learned how to crow, with her singing voice rivaling some of the leads.
The lighting design by Chase Elison was fantastic. The scene near the end when lightning struck with a bright light and then the stage glowed red from the storm was fantastic. It was such an eerie look. The costumes were all fun, designed by Kelsey Seaver, with my favorite being Tinkerbell’s light up green dress, which expertly matched the classic Disney look. I appreciated how each character’s harness that connected them to the flying pulleys didn’t distract from their costumes.
I hope that with more practice this show will look cleaner and run shorter, because I love this musical. Mortensen arranged this show to seem more fun and playful to engage a younger audience, and I personally didn’t find it as appealing this way. I would have liked more precise movements and line cues. However, this production is so big, with a large cast, that I commend Mortensen for putting in all the work to make it happen.