‘Peter Pan and Wendy’ at Imagination Stage by Julia L. Exline


Imagination Stage presents Peter Pan and Wendy, a musical adaptation of a longtime family favorite by Alyn Cardarelli and Steve Goers. Kathryn Chase Bryer directs this hilarious and enthralling production, with musical direction by George Fulginiti-Shakar.

Peter Pan (Jonathan Atkinson). Photo by Margot Schulman.
Peter Pan (Jonathan Atkinson). Photo by Margot Schulman.

Scenic and Projection Designer Klyph Stanford does a fine job joining two different settings on one stage. A child’s nursery is framed by larger-than-life building blocks and large, rather imposing French windows, with toys and stuffed animals scattered about. The windows are later lifted to reveal Neverland, with a shimmery waterfall grandly displayed in the center. A roughly-built tree house and impressive Pirate mast sit on either side of the stage, but the real sense of atmosphere comes from creative and impressive lighting, designed by Jason Arnold. Disjointed patterns for jungles and soft, dappled spheres for lagoons work wonderfully alongside Stanford’s abstract video projections, which encourage the illusion of flight as the actors move around the stage. Dressed as plainly as a white nightgown or as elaborately as a bedecked pirate, Costumer Katie Touart takes what is expected and makes it clever and creative, with an example being the Alligator, whose eyes are, in fact, made of large clock faces. With sound effects designed by Christopher Baine, amongst them being the familiar “tinkle” of Tinkerbell, the overall enchanting setting takes the audience far and away from their theatre seats.

The fun begins with Wendy (Justine Moral) playing happily in her nursery, to the dismay of Mr. and Mrs. Darling (James Konicek and Angela Miller) who believe that their daughter has outgrown this particular comfort, insisting that “the nursery is for babies.” Wendy stubbornly refuses to leave, inspiring her mother to reluctantly hand over a parcel to her daughter, one that promises adventure and growth, before leaving. In this box is Peter Pan’s (Jonathan Atkinson) shadow, which dances about the room in an admirable work of lighting. Peter arrives almost immediately to reclaim it, and when he finds that he cannot re-attach it himself, is helped by Wendy, who sews it back onto him in an act of friendship while Tinkerbell jealously flits about the room. Peter convinces Wendy to fly away with him to Neverland in the song, “Come With Me, Wendy,” and together they embark on an adventure.

Wendy immediately settles into her role as “mother” to Peter and the Lost Boys, played by Matt Dewberry and Dan Van Why, who playfully bicker as authentically as real brothers. Unknowingly, Wendy throws a wrench into the plans of Captain Hook (James Konicek) and his faithful pirate Smee (Michael John Casey) who sing the popular number, “Pirates with a Plan.” Unfortunately for them, mothers tend to keep their children from doing foolish things, such as eating cake from an unknown baker (good advice, as Hook poisoned it). While the pirates are indeed villains, Konicek and Casey make a highly entertaining pair as Hook and Smee. Their hilarious chemistry and audience interaction proves one of the highlights of the show. The children in the audience are regularly asked questions to help move along the plot, and Hook admonishes the senseless Smee after going a different way than the audience suggests, yelling, “When in doubt, always  listen to the audience!”

Captain Hook (James Konicek). Photo by Margot Schuulman.
Captain Hook (James Konicek). Photo by Margot Schulman.

Hook and Smee focus on their target: Peter Pan, who has become far safer than he realizes after welcoming Wendy into his life. Atkinson is wonderful as the charming, though rather arrogant Peter, who sings rather boldly of his lifestyle in the song “I Am the Pan” as he fights Hook and Smee, in a scene that shows particularly good choreography by Krissie Marty. Together, him and Wendy have a handful of adventures, including a visit with some hilariously burly mermaids and the courageous rescue of the strong, willful Princess Tiger Lilly, played by Angela Miller. However, how much excitement can one girl stand? Moral’s nostalgic rendition of the song, “Home” is stunning, showcasing a beautiful voice with impressive range. Just as the dust begins to settle, epiphanies are experiences, and tough decisions are made, Wendy is kidnapped by Hook and Smee, who then set a deadly trap for Peter. Will they be able to wrangle their way out of this misadventure?

I’ve seen many different versions of this classic tale, and I must say, Imagination Stage’s production of Peter Pan and Wendy is so far my absolute favorite. By focusing mainly on Wendy’s rite of passage and development, the plot is somewhat condensed and some notable characters are removed (but not missed, I assure you), making the usually thick-plotted story easier to follow. The ensemble is an immensely talented one and work together to give the audience a seamless, exciting show with great musical numbers!

I would definitely put Peter Pan and Wendy at the very top of your “Must See” list!

Running Time: 90 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.

Peter Pan and Wendy plays through August 11, 2013 at Imagination Stage – 4908 Auburn Avenue, in Bethesda, MD. To purchase tickets, call (301) 280-1660, or order them online.