★★★½☆ - Satisfying
Super Summer Theatre and Huntsman Entertainment present “Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure,” a satisfying three and a half star winner for both children and adults that brings a truly magical world to life before our eyes. Performances continue through August 18th at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.
“Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure,” is the 1996 version featuring a score by the British team of composer George Stiles and lyricist Anthony Drewe, and book written by Willis Hall (based on the original play by J.M. Barrie). The songs are different from those we know from the original version of “Peter Pan” but they are clever and truly add to the telling of the story -- in particular “One Big Adventure” and “Just Beyond The Stars” along with “The Cleverness of Me”. [Nothing to hum or as memorable to audiences as “I Got To Crow” or “I Won’t Grow Up”.]
However, the essential story remains the same: Peter and his mischievous sidekick, Tinkerbell – handily portrayed by Vanessa Lopez, who uses American sign language to communicate onstage -- visit the nursery of the Darling children late one night and with a sprinkle of pixie dust begin a fantastical journey across the stars to new lands that none of them will ever forget. Wendy, John and Michael arrive in Neverland to meet up with the Lost Boys, an all-female Indian Tribe, and Pan’s nemesis Captain Hook (with his motley crew of pirates).
The Producers (Steve and Sandra Huntsman) point out in their program notes that: “As we approached this lesser known musical adaptation of the classic story, we were inspired to think out of the box. What if Peter is a construct of the children’s imagination? Or a street urchin who listens at the window? What if the children see elements of their home and surrounding environment in Neverland? We asked these questions and so many more, then let our creative and technical teams and cast have fun, play and create!”
These multi-talented young producers took on a few other major responsibilities in bringing this entertaining production to the stage: Steve worked as director, costume and scenic designer; Sandra served as musical director. As Barrie wrote: “All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.” Steve and Sandra have certainly brought an abundance of these three elements into this theatrical fantasy adventure!
We begin our journey in the Darling family nursery in London between 1900-1910. The gifted creative team then makes use of traditional “story theatre” conventions to transport the characters and audience through the streets of London, the pirate ship, into the mermaids ocean paradise and, of course, through various Neverland neighborhoods! Kudos to Jay LeDane (lighting), Katherine Gonzales (sound), Dawn Campbell (choreography).
The capable multicultural ensemble does yeoman's work in singing and dancing while moving simple set pieces to designate new and different settings while the audience watches – even while wearing fantasy or period costumes (dressed as Neverland Natives, mermaids, or couples at a high society ball).
The primary characters were confident and self-assured throughout and their singing was quite enjoyable: Joel Ruud (Peter Pan); Timothy Burris (Captain Hook/Mr. Darling); Gabrielle Cook (Wendy Darling); Blake Heller (John Darling); Leonidas Brown (Michael Darling); Cynthia Vodovoz (Mrs. Darling); Andrew Driovich (Mr. Smee); Kate Sirls (Storyteller), and Jaida Albanito (Tiger Lily).
Due to technical difficulties the show started later than expected. However, as I perused the capacity audience throughout the course of the evening – even as the closing number was coming to a conclusion much later than usual – both young and old were on their feet cheering and applauding in appreciation of the amazing adventure we had just shared together!
Stiles and Drewe are a multi award-winning musical theatre writing partnership. Their passion for new musical theatre writing is recognized via the annual Stiles and Drewe Prize for Best New Song, and their new Mentorship Award supported by Music Theatre International (Europe). They are also founding board members of Mercury Musical Developments (MMD), Associate Artists at The Watermill Theatre and patrons of the London Musical Theatre Orchestra and The Musical Theatre Academy (MTA).