PLEASANT GROVE — I attended the Creekside Theatre Fest production of Tinkerbell (written by Patrick Flynn) with my three-year-old daughter. The play, directed by Jordan Long, is billed for young audiences and features a 1-hour run time with a subject suitable for younger children. The play is based on the works of Sir J. M. Barrie and is now focused on the feisty fairy Tinkerbell (played by Miriam Wessendorf). The play focuses on telling Tinkerbell’s side of the Peter Pan story. Tinkerbell is a lonely fairy and is anxious to have a friend when she meets Peter Pan. When Peter Pan begins bringing the Lost Boys and the Darling children, Tinkerbell is afraid of what Peter Pan’s new friends mean for her friendship with him.
The first moment that caught my daughter’s attention was dropping “pixie dust” (sparkling confetti) from the stage’s ceiling just in front of the audience. This was a great way to bring the audience into the magic of Neverland. As it happened the “pixie dust” on the floor was entertained after the show as children began picking it up and throwing it in the air. The remaining elements geared to a younger audience relied on dialogue, staging, and some modern anachronisms. The pirates dance to a modern pop tune, and the jokes reference modern media and characters. Performers often break the fourth wall, stand immediately before the audience, provide their commentary, and ask questions in character. But if the children are intended to respond and interact with the performers, the pacing of the dialogue rarely allowed them to do so.
The script does recreate the famous moment from the original play Peter Pan, where Tinkerbell drinks poison to save Peter Pan. Peter Pan (played by Clark Heinrich) calls on the audience to believe in fairies and clap their hands. It is a pleasure that this scene is included in the script, especially because this interactivity is significant to the original play. As the main resolution to the conflict of Tinkerbell and Peter Pan’s friendship, two choices diminish the emotional impact of connecting with the performers and their friendship. First, the production stages Tinkerbell’s death towards the back of the stage in dim lighting. Second, Heinrich rushed through the call to believe by shouting urgently, but without a range of any other feeling leading to the shout. This all leaves little time to sorrow Tinkerbell’s sacrifice before belief restores the fairy.
Wessendorf as the title character was limited to the emotional range of a fairy, as the script explains that Tinkerbell can only experience one emotion at a time because she is a tiny fairy. However, this led to repetitive asides where Wessendorf’s performance was dominated by portraying Tinkerbell’s growing anger towards Peter’s growing friend group and then worry about being replaced and alone.
Jenessa Inrig (playing Smee) and Katie Rowley (playing Wendy) interacted with the audience during a preshow routine while waiting for the show to begin. Inrig performed with humorous physical antics and spoken performance as the second-in-command pirate and was a consistent element of delight. Inrig’s arrival on “Neverland” with pirate captain Hook (played by Joleah Long) required her to comedically carry half a dozen suitcases of belongings in which a conquering flag could still not be found. In addition, Inrig toned her performance to sincerely explain friendship to Tinkerbell, while still maintaining the lighthearted good humor of her character.
Throughout the production, the direction really allowed the ensemble to feel like they were playing like imaginative young children while creating the Neverland story with costuming by Jan Shelton Hunsaker. The ensemble (consisting of Kayli Tombarge, Bevan Carr, Alaina Hall, and Kylie Christensen) played all the side characters of the story. This did lead to a confusing sequence where the actor playing John Darling also played a Lost Boy at the same time in the same scene. For most of the show, though, the ensemble was great as Lost Boys and Pirates. The triumph was the charm of two waddling ducks and the slithering, hand-eating crocodile (aided by a wheeled board and a fellow actor). The crocodile came close to the audience, and I wish the ducks had also come closer to interact.
Tinkerbell at the Creekside Theatre Fest offers a simple, fun theatre production. The production at times is hampered by lengthy dialogue but mixes in enough playful energy to reengage the audience throughout the hour-long show. And so, like the “pixie dust” my daughter brought home (and sprinkled throughout the car), there are sparkling moments that can delight on this journey to Neverland.