Peter Pan: The Musical
Book by J.M. Barrie
Music by: Mark Charlap, additional music by Jule Styne
Lyrics by: Carolyn Leigh, additional lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Directed by Eve Muson.
Produced by Olney Theatre Center
Reviewed by Gary McMillan
If you can pry junior’s fingers from his Game Boy, he just might enjoy a vacation from Nintendoland via Olney Theatre Center’s holiday excursion to Neverland. Peter Pan is a bit of an old chestnut, to be sure, but its 1950s score still entertains audience members whose first experience of the show likely was half a century ago on a small black & white television set. Olney’s production has the key ingredients to charm children: a darling Wendy (can this sweet young girl really be the same Patricia Hurley who played brash and brassy Gussie in Signature’s Merrily We Roll Along?), a spunky Tiger Lilly (played with menacing glee by Boo Killebrew) and a preternaturally juvenile Peter (notably here not played by a middle-aged actress, but a real, live boy — or in this case — dashing young man, Daniel Townsend). Casting a male as Peter makes for an interesting dynamic ã la the pop psychology syndrome of the same name — the insistence upon remaining young seems part sprite-like and part petulant.
As important as this trio of youthful role models is for the children in the audience, adults most enjoy the dastardly comic Hook. Mitchell Hébert (University of Maryland Theatre Professor and Woolly Mammoth company member ) dishes up a snide, hilariously sinister captain. Boo Killebrew’s choreography draws out the humor, most notably in the dances for Hook and his band of brigands as well as Hook’s dalliance with a disguised Peter.
Hébert also doubles as the stern father of Wendy, John and Michael. Mrs. Darling is played by two time Helen Hayes Award nominee Peggy Yates.
The set (by Tijana Bjelajac) and costumes (by Pei Lee) which bookend the show, the children’s bedroom in the Darling family home, well convey a turn of the century feel. The Neverland sequences use minimal sets, not unlike the 1970s Rowan and Martin set awash in day-glo color and over-sized plastic flowers. I would have preferred a more traditional look here as well, but the eye-popping modern look — from b-boy to grunge — no doubt strikes a responsive chord with the kids. And, yes, the fairy dust does flow and the children soar to the heavens like skilled acrobats who have been doing this all their lives.
The original production benefits most from the contributions of Comden and Green — two sweet songs, “Never Never Land” and “Distant Melody,”as well as more novelty songs ripe for choreography, “Oh, My Mysterious Lady,” “Ugg-a-Wugg” and “Captain Hook’s Waltz.” Quite an addition to the songs of Charlap and Leigh: most notably “I’ve Gotta Crow” and “I Won’t Grow Up,” but also “Tender Shepherd” and “Hook’s Tango.”
Olney’s Peter Pan is a nostalgic treat for adults and a flight of fancy likely to delight most children.
Running time: 2:40 with 2 intermissions
When: thru Jan. 11th. Evenings: Tues & Sun at 7:30, Thurs, Fri & Sat at 8 pm. Matinees: Fri, Sat & Sun at 2 pm, with a few other morning & mid-day performances.
Where: Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd, Olney, Md.
Tickets: $25 – $58. Children half price – most performance. Performance and Ticket Schedule