OREM — Peter Pan’s Great Adventure at the SCERA faithfully adapts J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan with an eye toward younger audiences. With a book by Chase Ramsey, music and lyrics by David Paul Smith, and direction by Kathryn Laycock Little, the show feels identical to the Broadway musical — just without the familiar soundtrack.
The scenes, which flew by like Wendy and Peter, were short enough to keep the show an hour long and maintain kids’ attention. But what made a good pace for children clipped the show’s drama: Tinkerbell, for example, warned Peter of the poisonous cake, died from it, and was magically revived in about 3 minutes. Basically the length of audition cuts, the songs conveyed the situation of each scene without immersing the audience in its emotion.
Some favorite moments with the actors came when they broke the fourth wall, a choice that allowed for ample humor and engaging audience interaction. Another comical highlight from Little’s direction was the addition of a puppet manned by one of Hook’s henchmen, Smaug (played by Dana Cardon).
There was a distracting discrepancy in age and size between the Darling children, specifically between Michael (played by Nate Mildenstein) and his older siblings Wendy (played by Ella Child) and John (played by Brodee Ripple). The problem could have been remedied with an older-looking Michael or a younger John. I appreciated the choice to cast women (Alyssa Perez and Emma Mildenstein) as the Lost Boys and Captain Hook’s crew (Candace Wright and Cardon). That said, their neat braids and clean hair did not feel consistent with the look of scruffy pirates and male children.
Captain Hook (played by Shawn Herrera) dazzled with his charismatic villainy and emotional flexibility. He was like a rambunctious uncle who likes to play with the kids, charming and scaring them in the same breath. Peter Pan (played by Will Ingram) commanded the stage with good presence and a sharp look that compensated for some iffy vocals. Wendy sang with the clear tone and clean vibrato of a budding actress.
The lighting design by Chase Elison enhanced the production by clarifying the emotion of each scene. During one song in which the Lost Boys sang to Wendy and her siblings, the pale blue lighting conveyed a peaceful island sky. When the Lost Boys made their new friends solemnly swear on something, a vibrant red flooded the stage. The lighting, which resumed its normal blue when that section of the song was over, reinforced a mood change that I may have missed otherwise.
As for the scenic design by Shawn Herrera, the piece with rocks and flowers that greeted the Darling children upon their arrival in Neverland adequately communicated a tropical island. However, its small size left large amounts of space on either side that precluded me from immersing myself in Neverland. The multiple pieces of Captain Hook’s ship, on the other hand, more convincingly filled the stage. Thanks to Danielle Berry’s stage management, all of the sets and props transitioned seamlessly.
Deborah Bowman’s costuming helped to create the world of the show. The light blue nightgown that Wendy wore added an airiness and innocence to her character. Peter’s vest was a vibrant hodge-podge of color and fabric, and Hook’s entire costume and wig presented piracy in all of its lush wickedness. It was only the tie-dye pants of Captain Hook’s goonies that shattered the illusion of Edwardian England and a far-off, magical land.
Overall, setting aside my quibbles—which a child probably would not notice anyway—the production played to its target audience well. To enjoy Barrie’s classic story audiences have to believe in ageless children and clock-lodged crocodiles. To enjoy a stage production of Peter Pan they have to believe that an oversized crocodile head operated by two visible actors actually is tick-tock croc. The belief of the audience has to be two-fold: first in the fantasy that Peter represents and then in the theatrical devices used to stage his world. Just as Peter asks the children to trust in his magic in order to fly, Peter Pan’s Great Adventure also invites that the audience takes a leap of faith to believe in a Neverland made of rudimentary parts. My response to their invitation was simple: when Peter implored the audience to stand, clap, and cheer to save Tinkerbell, I shouted my belief in fairies—and believed it. An eight-year-old with a big imagination probably will, too.