PROVO — BYU is currently presenting Peter Pan, a musical based on the play by James M. Barrie. Since 1904, audiences have been enjoying the story of the boy who would never grow up.
Peter Pan (Bronwyn Tarboton) listens to stories each night at the window of the Darling family. When the family dog snatches his shadow, he then must come inside to retrieve it. When he meets Wendy Darling (Jillian Bjornn), he invites her and her brothers to Neverland, the magical island where he resides. Along with Peter’s fellow orphans, called the Lost Boys, Neverland is populated by a band of pirates and a group of savage, dancing Indians. And we certainly can’t forget Tinkerbell, Peter’s sassy fairy sidekick. If you haven’t heard the story, or at least heard of Peter Pan, you can consider yourself rare.
Director Tim Threlfall has created a night of energy, color, and excitement. Bronwyn had a terrific entrance onto the stage: flying, of course. She had such life and vigor. I loved her accent and how well I could understand every word. Bronwyn made every scene a little brighter when she was onstage. Captain Hook’s entrance, too, was just hilarious. He was carried onstage by his mates, who were each singing a hearty pirate song; his giant portrait filled the background of the stage. The set (Benjamin Sanders), the costumes (Shelby Luke), the choreography (Pat Debenham), and the orchestra (coducted by Eric Hansen) were splendidly done. All aspects of this production can be described as colorful and vibrant.
I had only seen the Disney version of Peter Pan, so this story had a few differences. Bjornn, for example, had never heard of Peter Pan and had to learn afresh about Neverland. Her character was much different than I had expected, as well—less angelic, much more like a little girl, playing house and pouting often. The Lost Boys, too, were more childlike than I’d always imagined; they were quite afraid of the pirates and Indians.
I have very few complaints, but I ought to mention them in the interest of balance. Bronwyn, for one, had a terrible “crow.” Her character crows like a rooster to express self-confidence and happiness, but Bronwyn’s crow was more of a screech/squawk than anything else. I still cringe when I think of it. (It was a pity, really, because her song, “I Gotta Crow,” was wonderful.) Captain Hook (Ivan Hoffman) was sadly long-winded and tiresome when he delivered monologues. Overall he was funny, but there were times when I just wanted him to be done talking , so that Bronwynn could come back onstage. Hoffman was a terrific Mr. Darling, though.
Some wonderful highlights included: an interpretive-dance/scene-change with trees by the Lost Boys, a very committed Indian dance number, and Captain Hook’s literal band of pirates with their musical instruments. There is flying in this show, and it was almost magical (Brad Allen, flight director.) I was in awe of Bronwynn’s confidence in the air. I loved the entire Darling family, also, including the only real child in the show, John Darling (Sam Bostwick,) who had an adorable speaking voice. Lastly, the Lullaby “Distant Melody” made me cry, in a good way. It was just well executed: lighting, blocking, and singing. Bronwyn and Bjornn singing together was beautiful.
Also, I had a weighty moment at this play. There is a scene when Peter asks the audience whether they believe in fairies, and if so, to clap their hands. I’d heard of this part of the play before, but not until I was sitting in that theater, clapping my hands and cheering, willing that little green light (animated by Shane Hunt) to live again, did I realize what a big scene this really was. I felt connected to generations of theater-goers; audience after audience had sat in my place and felt Peter Pan’s love for Tinkerbell. Moments like this one are why theater draws me in.
It’s quite a show, that Peter Pan, and BYU has done a great job adding their own color and flair. The audience was full of children, and adults who “won’t grow up”; take a trip to Provo and join them.