by J.M Barrie,
adapted by Jeff Pitcher
It makes about as much sense for me to review this Carousel production of Peter Pan as it would for the elementary school kids at the matinee I attended to review King Lear. The show is aimed at children five and up, and it’s their opinion that counts. But hey, I have this gig and they don’t.
So there I sit, trying to mind-meld with a full house of squirming, giggling, wired young folks.
We gradually quiet down as Jeff Pitcher’s adaptation of Barrie’s classic opens in the family home where grumpy Mr. Darling (Mike Stack) bullies his children, Wendy (Anna Cummer), John (Michael Gunion) and Michael (Lucas Testini), and the loopy dog Nana who takes care of them (Cat Main). The comedy seems pretty lame to me, and the kids in the audience don’t laugh at anything. But they’re riveted.
The first laugh comes when Peter (Stephen Holmes) is flying the Darling children to Neverland, and Tinkerbell, played as usual by a rapidly moving light, jealously tinkles at Wendy. When Peter explains that Tink called her “a silly ass,” the kids roar.
By now we’re all feeling better because the magic has kicked in. The flying is always magical, even though within a few seconds the kids see the wires and start a low-level buzz among themselves. At least they’re not text-messaging. They quickly decide they’re okay with the wires. Yeah, it’s actually kinda cool to realize how it’s done.
Another cool thing (I know kids don’t say “cool” anymore) is that two of Captain Hook’s pirates are played by girls. We like that. If any of us notices that Hook himself is the same actor as Mr. Darling, we’re not saying.
There’s lots of cool stuff—real swords and swordfights (nicely choreographed by Nick Harrison), the Captain’s menacing hook that elicits gasps from the seats around me, and Hook’s nemesis, the ticking crocodile. I’m thinking the croc’s a cheesy cardboard cut-out, and there’s not much to the pirate ship, and the Lost Boys’ hideout is hardly anything at all. But nah, we’re not bothered by Bryan Pollock’s low-budget set. We’re all pretty much hooked.
When the Darling kids and the Lost Boys fly home at the end, and everyone reconciles with Mother and Father, and Peter refuses to grow up, and Wendy has her own daughter, and all that sappy stuff—we totally fall for it.
Director Carole Higgins finds the right levels for her audience, not too scary nor too tame either, and Jeff Tymoschuk provides a familiar movie-style soundtrack. The acting is just as good as it needs to be, with Cummer’s Wendy the standout when she lays down the law playing mother to the boys in Neverland.
In the talkback afterwards, the kids ask brilliant questions. We are happy.