Sunday, April 22, 2018

Peter Pan—NW Children’s Theatre—NW Portland

“An Awfully Big Adventure”

     This children’s classic by James M. Barrie is adapted for the stage as a musical by Milo Mowery, Rodolfo Ortega, Jeff Sanders and Sarah Jane hardy, who also choreographed it, and directed by John Ellingson, (who is also set, props and puppet designer).  The show will be playing through May 20th, at their location in the Cultural Center at 1819 NW Everett St. in Portland (parking is a challenge in this area, so plan your time accordingly).  For further information, go to their site at or call 503-222-4480.

     This is, perhaps, the ultimate children’s story and my personal favorite.  And, for children, it exercises their “little gray cells,” their imaginations, to the max.  After all, it has pirates, fairies, mermaids, a dog, a crocodile, a Neverbird, flying, adventures, puppets and, perhaps, best of all, escape from the everyday world.  It taps into innocence at its core, both for kids and adults, and gives it a good shaking, reminding us that we can still be empowered to take charge of our worlds and change things, as necessary!  Many adaptations of it have been presented over the last 100+ years.  Some with music, some without, some animated, some with females playing Pan, but all with a sense of wonderment and the abilities to conquer our own fears.  And all things considered, a tribute to Barrie’s lasting legacy, with profits going to a Home for Orphans.

Maud Adams may have started the tradition of females playing Pan, when she did it in the 1920’s.  It is unclear why a woman (not a girl) has claimed this role much of the time.  It could be because Barrie had a great deal of respect for Women, Mothers and Girls (Wendy is definitely the female/mother-figure in the Lost Boys and Peter’s life).  Barrie also didn’t seem to have much use for adulthood in men.  Mr. Darling is a bit of a whiner and the other adult males are pirates.  Doesn’t bode well for us guys, does it?

     Some of the names associated over the years with the role are Mary Martin, Mia Farrow, Sandy Duncan, Cathy Rigby and, of the male variety, Robin Williams (Hook) and Bobby Driscoll (Disney’s animated version).  There was even a 5-act version, encompassing the whole story, by the Royal Shakespeare Company of England.  The best of the filmed ones was, in my opinion, a little-known, non-musical with no big stars from Australia, made a few years back.  And now we have, once again, a Portland-bred one.

     The story should be familiar to everyone.  Peter Pan (Ryder Thompson) lives in Neverland (looking at the night sky it’s “the second star to the right and straight on till morning”).  He, as well as the Lost Boys, were orphaned at an early age because they fell out of their prams.  There are no girls in this group because “they’re too smart to fall out of their prams.”  But the pirates, led by Hook (Andrés Alcalá), who has a nemesis in Tick-Tock, the crocodile (aptly named, as he swallowed an alarm clock along with one of Hook’s hands).  The rest of his motley crew are the inept Smee (Kevin-Michael Moore) and three other cohorts, Noodler (Clara-Liis Hillier), Cecco (Sam Burns) and Starkey (Stefano Laboni).

     Although quite content in their own ways, Peter and the Lost Boys, Nibbs (Justine Beall), Curly (Maya Hawks), Slightly (Elo Paulorinne) and Tootles (Charlotte Sanders),  do feel the need for a “mother” for bed-time stories.  So, Peter comes to earth to “borrow” Wendy (Grace Malloy)) and her two brothers, John (Sam Majors) and Michael (Phillip Wells), so they can sample a proper family.  But through a series of adventures and mis-adventures…Tinkerbelle almost dies, they battle pirates, deal with wily mermaids (puppets, voiced by Della Cosloy, Gabriela Giraldo, Clara King, Tia Lempert, Izzy Trujillo, and Sinead Mooney), a hungry crock (a puppet), an over-protective dog, Nana (Max O’Hare) and a clever Neverbird (king, again).   But, defiant to the end, Peter flies off, vowing to never grow up. 

     The music is pleasant and my favorite numbers were A House For Wendy (voiced by the strongest singing ensemble in the cast, the Lost Boys), the lovely duet I’ll Not Leave You by two strong singers in Wendy and Peter and Boys Are Mean To Birds, especially the show-stopping performance/singing by King, as the Neverbird.  This adaptation is quite good but I do miss the Jane segment of the Mary Martin one, which has a bitter-sweet ring to it.  Also miss the “Indians” and Tiger Lily. who are gone but assume, although they are the “good guys” and the princess, a strong role model, the political correctness of today won’t allow for it.  But the interplay between Smee, Hook and the pirates during the set changes is priceless, as the kids ate it up.  The puppets (designer, John Ellingson) are a great addition to the show, very colorful, and the Flying By Foy (they’ve been doing it since the Martin production in the 50’s) is still the best, as kids are smitten by it.

     Hardy’s has another high-flying treat for the audience, as she explores expertly the magic and mystery of childhood!  And those adults that wish to be taken on a journey back in time will appreciate it, too.  Ellingson has a winning cast and it is a poignant, romantic view of an era long past…and sorely missed.    Thompson and Malloy, as Pan and Wendy, deliver the right magic for the roles.  Alcalá is always a delight to watch in anything he does, and he is a delicious Hook here.  Moore, as Smee, is another old pro at comedy and he excels here.  And, once again, to explore that old adage, “there are no small parts…,” King as the Neverbird is terrific, both in voice and performance!  And Beall, as Nibbs, one of the Lost Boys, caught my eye more than once.  She is very animated and appears to be totally into her role.  I look for good things in the future for these two young ladies!  

    I recommend this show.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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