What little girl doesn’t want to be whisked away from their nursery window out to the second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning? And what little boy doesn’t want to go on daring adventures battling pirates and chasing Indians? The opportunity has at last arrived at Pumpkin Theatre as the exciting new musical Peter and Wendy takes flight! Written by Alyn Cardarelli and Steve Goers, this new twist on the J.M. Barrie classic brings the timeless story to an accessible level for young children and invites their imaginations into musical theatre. Directed by Stacey Needle, this inventive new twist on the story keeps the basics in place while inviting young audiences to explore through song the way in which the story unfolds.
Set Designer Ryan Michael Haase creates the Darling nursery with the nautical adventures of Pan island in mind. The brilliance in Haase’s design comes two fold; the first being that the set looks very much like a nursery for a youth who simply refuses to grow up, and the second being that the set never changes so that when Wendy ventures to Neverland with Peter Pan it is very plausible that like all good pretend games it has all happened inside of Wendy’s very own nursery. The shimmery blue fabric is reminiscent of water and really looks resplendent once the mermaids come into the story.
Costume Designer Heather C. Jackson finds all the classic looks of these familiar characters so as to make them easily recognizable to audiences of all ages. Hook dons a gleaming red pirate’s coat complete with fancy hat and feather while Peter Pan looks ever the ageless wood sprite in his green tights and cap. The mermaid costumes are brilliant in their simplicity transforming two lost boys into lovely watery creatures. Jackson’s looks are fun and whimsical, bringing excitement to catch the eye of even the youngest of audiences into her designs.
Lighting Designer Heather M. Mork is responsible for Tinkerbell. Combining a yellowish-green bright flitting spotlight that can’t stay still for too long with some tinkling chimes from back stage, Mork brings the magic of faeries to life in this production. Tink flits all over the stage and plays with the lost boys as well as the audience. The one place where Mork’s design work could use some improvement is the shadow-scrim play used against the main backdrop. The lighting trick that is meant to show big shadow puppet figures of the crocodile doesn’t work correctly here, making the crocodile difficult to see. With minor adjustments the shadows can be made visible making the ferocious crocodile visible once more.
Alyn Cardarelli and Steve Goers have captured the essence of Peter Pan and all of the loveable and memorable characters in their new musical. The songs are clever and not too long, with sprightly rhythms and simple melodies. Reducing the number of characters involved allows for younger audiences to really pay attention to the story. Musical numbers are carefully placed throughout the production with Goers and Cardarelli crafting a solid balance between spoken sings and moments where song happen.
Tootles (Robert Harris) and Slightly (Derek Cooper) are two lost boys who enjoy a great time together wherever they are. Harris and Cooper play exceptionally well off one another, each feeding on the other’s comic energy. Their animated facial expressions, excited voices, and overall enthusiasm for exaggerating their parts is perfect for entertaining younger audiences. Watch closely and you might even see them grow fins during a special part of the performance.
Tiger Lily (Erin Confair) is a strong warrior princess who speaks in simple words. Confair brings a balance to the production, nothing too serious but nothing too silly either. Doubling as Mrs. Darling, she also brings a hint of an accent to the performance as well in tribute to the British origins of the story.
Wendy (Casey Garner) is a bright young girl who grows into a smart young woman as the story develops. Garner has a lovely singing voice and really makes numbers like “Home” sound beautiful and filled with heart. Acting very much like a mother—and everyone knows mothers exist to tell children what to do— Garner is perfect in this role as the little girl who didn’t want to grow up and then did.
Peter Pan (Sam Hayder) is adventurous and fun. Hayder also brings a strong singing voice to the show, his title number “He is the Pan” being a most fun vocal adventure that really explains his character. Crowing and zipping about the stage Hayder is filled with engaging energy and knows how to respond to younger audiences when they invite themselves into the production. He plays well with Wendy and much like the lost boys is extremely animated and very exciting to watch.
It’s Smee (Anthony Scimonelli) and Captain Hook (Eric Poch) who need watching! These dishonorable pirates are all together entirely something else! Scimonelli is the epitome of a bumbling foolish sidekick, again playing exceptionally well with the younger audiences whenever they are asked to participate. Poch finds the perfect balance between mean and nasty and fabulously foppish so as not to truly frighten any of the youngest audience members. Their duet “Pirates with a Plan” is absolutely hilarious and even involves some pirate dancing. Poch takes his character a step further by bringing his skilled swordsmanship as the Fight Captain into play; a brilliantly done battle with Peter Pan that almost looks really real!
Leave your windows open so that Peter Pan may visit you! You never know when you’ll have another chance to explore this awfully big adventure!
Running Time: Approximately 65 minutes. with no intermission.
Peter and Wendy plays through May 18, 2014 at The Pumpkin Theatre located at Har Sinai Congregation— 2905 Walnut Avenue in Owings Mills, Maryland. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 902- 1814, or purchase them online.