Lots of fresh new insights abound in this cheerful rendition of Peter Pan and Wendy at Imagination Stage.
The well-known story feels bubbly fresh in the hands of director Kathryn Chase Bryer who orchestrates the cast’s multiple entrances with Peter, covering every inch of the stage and sending them out through the audience seeking affirmation and eagerly delivered participation.
First of all, Jonathan Atkinson is wonderfully cast as Peter who can swashbuckle with the best of them while also being able to show his tender side. Peter enters the multi-level set through the windows nicely perched along the backdrop, and with use of projections of his silhouette, looks like he’s flying trying to catch up with his runaway shadow.
Once Wendy, nicely played by Justine Moral, demonstrates her domestic skills by sewing it back on for him, he’s good as new and entices her to join him on his adventure to Never Land and never grow up. Wendy who has just had a tempestuous row with her Father is more than happy to scoot.
No longer a toddler, her insistence on snuggling with her teddy bear and playing with her toys in the nursery irritates her sophisticated Father who’s ready to toss any and all of her childish things in the trash. Their butting heads sends her over the edge, literally, as she petulantly escapes and flies away with Peter to a place filled with fun and Lost Boys who need her.
Some cast members double up on duties. Veteran actor James Konicek is equally adept as Father and Captain Hook, especially when coupled with his first mate, Mr. Smee played with simpleton delight by the incomparable Michael John Casey. Watching these two major talents go at it is a rare treat as they wrangle and tussle trying to come up with the perfect “Plan” to steal loot and look piratey.
Lost Boys Matt Dewberry and Dan Van Why are also the “mermaids” in the enchanted lagoon, where a nifty musical touch lowers their singing register with a wink and a smile.
The production designers went all out to assure the right look. Setting designer and projectionist Klyph Stanford converts a London skyline that includes Big Ben to the jungles of Never Land and a blue lagoon with a simple backdrop. Stanford’s sense of wonder and sophistication are apparent in the ever-present pirate skull and cross bone symbol perched on an upper level of the stage, like a mast, along with large scale alphabet blocks. Projections of the pirate symbol flash across the set for the dreaded captain’s entrance always on the prowl for mischievous and dastardly deeds.
The excellent set design is matched by creative lighting and sound by Jason Arnold and Christopher Baine respectively, especially in depicting Tinker Bell whose light flickers in crevices and corners throughout the set, and even cascades along Peter’s fingertips as he interprets the twinkles.
Costume designer Katie Touart’s rugged pants for the mermaids with blue tassels as fins added a nice touch, but the teacups attached to their chests supposedly representing ample bosoms were not to my liking or taste, seemed totally out of scope with the rest of the costuming choices and could have been dumped overboard. In contrast, the pirate Captain’s regalia of pantaloons, waistcoat and brocaded fitted jacket were exquisite, as was the green leaf design for Wendy’s apron and Pan’s short tunic where green is even subtly picked up in the Mom’s jeweled choker necklace. So, yes, the teacups should have stayed in the drawings.
The songs are memorable and beautifully rendered, starting off with Konicek’s booming baritone wondering “Something’s the matter with Wendy,” since she insists on sleeping in her nursery and playing make believe. As his wife Mrs. Darling, Angela Miller’s lilting soprano adds to the lovely duets between the two.
Peter Pan and Wendy
Closes August 11, 2013
4908 Auburn Avenue
1 hour, 30 minutes with 1 intermission
Tickets: $17 – $27
Tuesdays thru Sundays
Director Bryer is mindful of the layers of meaning and keeps the darker elements at bay with a light, sweet touch. The script offers clear messages about duty, loyalty, and honor and the amazing power of group energy and belief to heal as witnessed with Tinkerbell’s near demise. No matter how many times you see it, when the scene is performed with conviction and strength, it works like a charm, and that’s just what happens here.
The simple story of a fantastic boy who can fly, gets out of all his dilemmas and never wants to grow up has been retold and refashioned over the years because of its subtle messages about life and death, love, family and change. What’s not to relate to, especially when one can be treated by a stellar cast with gorgeous voices and commitment to their characters?
The Imagination Stage version will be hard to beat and is a treat for the entire family.
Peter Pan and Wendy . A Musical by Alyn Cardarelli and Steve Goers . Directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer . Featuring Jonathan Atkinson, Justine Moral, James Konicek, Michael John Casey, Angela Miller, Matt Dewberry and Dan Van Why . Music Director: George Fulginiti-Shakar . Set Designer: Klyph Stanford . Lighting Designer: Jason Arnold . Costume Designer: Katie Touart . Choreographer Krissie Marty . Sound Designer Christopher Baine . Produced by Imagination Stage . Reviewed by Debbie Jackson.