J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan has been seen on stage in one form or another for well over 100 years. It’s survived being Disney-fied and even Christopher Walken-ized in a disastrous live television spectacle. The most popular adaptation is the 1954 musical starring Mary Martin. It’s that version that takes flight in a well-mounted production running at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center through May 20.
Peter Pan (a winsome Sarah Wintermeyer) has lost his shadow while eavesdropping on story time at the Darling household. While retrieving it late one night, he awakens eldest child Wendy Darling (Lucy London) and after a quick flight demonstration, Peter convinces Wendy and her brothers to join him in Neverland. They’ll soon cross paths with some warriors and the dastardly Captain Hook (David Yen) and his scurvy pirate crew.
Director Sheri Lee Miller and her team get almost everything right here, from casting to costumes and sets, from choreography to musical direction. Wintermeyer is so good as Peter that she almost gets me to put aside my bucket list wish to see a production cast with a male in the role. This is actually the first production I’ve attended where I haven’t been surrounded by little tykes asking “Why is Peter a girl?”
David Yen must be on a low-fiber diet as he doesn’t really chew up the scenery as much as one would expect with such a role. Still terrifically entertaining, his decision to go ‘small’ with some things puts the bits in danger of being lost on the large Spreckels stage.
Nice supporting work is done by Craig Bainbridge as Hook’s right-hand man Smee, Morgan Harrington as Mrs. Darling and the entire cast as Wendy’s siblings, various warriors, pirates and Lost Boys. Honorable mention goes to the backstage “flight crew” and to Andy Templeton who spends the show costumed as either Nana the dog or a tick-tocking crocodile but manages to get some of the biggest audience reactions.
Miller handles the problematic parts of Barrie’s script – its depiction of Native Americans – by transmogrifying them from an “Indian” tribe to non-specific “warriors” and costuming them in a patchwork of styles and designs. It helps, but dialogue (“Let’s smoke a peace pipe!”) and lyrics are still a bit cringe-worthy.
The show is in three acts and runs about two hours and forty minutes, which seems long, but the first and third acts only run for a peppy 35 minutes. Act II runs about an hour and does get a bit sluggish. There are intermissions between the acts to give the kiddies a restroom break.
In toto, Peter Pan makes for a great evening of family entertainment.
Peter Pan runs Friday through Sunday through May 20 at Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park. Friday and Saturday evening performances are at 7pm; Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 1pm. There’s a Thursday, May 17 performance at 7pm.
For more information, go to spreckelsonline.com