To put on a sweeping adaptation of the epic story of Peter Pan takes some faith, trust, and a little bit of pixie dust. Adventure Theatre in Tinker Bell, adds just the right touches of theatrical magic to this world premiere as we see Peter through the lens of the fairy.
Upon entering the theatre, the audience is met with a glorious set, made mostly of polished wood, somewhere between playground, hideout and ship. Daniel Pinha’s set is so captivating that it immediately evokes all of the soon to be visited locales immediately. Music reminiscent of carnivals and sea shanties fills the air, courtesy of Neil McFadden’s Sound Design. These two elements, combined with the thrumming energy of excited children, only serves to stir anticipation for the oncoming adventure.
Many of us know the story of Peter Pan, the boy who refused the grow up. But Patrick Flynn’s adaptation focuses the story on the Tinker Bell. Not the hero of the story, nor the Princess (the role ostensibly filled by Wendy Darling), the feisty fairy is usually cast as the sidekick. The ever-important protector of the Lost Boys, in most adaptations, even the traitor. But this Tinker Bell, played with infectious energy by Michelle Polera, insists that that’s not how things went.
It’s got all the right elements for a fun night with the family; jokes that land with the parents, brightly colored lights and thrilling music, some swashbuckling sword fights, delightful puppets, and, of course, flight! The kids will cheer as Peter and Tinker Bell cavort about. The adults might laugh at Tink’s questionable sense of morality (she is a fairy after all, and due to being tiny, only has enough room for one feeling at a time.) I attended with my friend and her child, and watched as the child wriggled and clapped with glee through much of the show. I must note that her favorite parts of the play involved Tinker Bell and the Pirates. (Mine was the Crocodile, so we were at odds).
Flynn’s adaptation whizzes through the condensed story, hitting all the elements of the classic tale, with an occasional fun new insight through Tinker Bell’s narration. Director Nick Olcott utilizes the small cast to drive the action along, filling the show with high energy entrances and exits, as if audience were also flitting through the air along with the flyers.
The cast’s energy ramps up and stays high throughout most of the show as they buzz in and out of the theatre. Occasionally, they suffer a bit of “Oooh, me accent’s slipping!”, but it’s an easily discarded note. Polera leads the charge, keeping the pace brisk and tight with her numerous asides and direct address to the audience as Tinker Bell. She moves gracefully and quickly about the stage, diving fearlessly into its nooks and crannies, and all the while commanding the attention of the room. Carlos Castillo as Peter Pan maintains an effortless lightness at all times, even when brooding, pensive, or gloomy. His light-footedness and dancer-like grace gives much levity to the role of Pan, even if he, at times, was a bit one-note.
On the villainous end, Peter Boyer’s Hook swaggers about with an equal mix of gravitas and silliness, as if he found just the correct walk to make the outstanding Captain Hook wig bounce just so. Boyer, to no one’s surprised, reprises his role as a pirate captain, having previously appeared as Captain Braid Beard in Adventure’s How I Became a Pirate, last fall. Interestingly, in Tinker Bell, Hook comes across less villainous, but more of a fop and a fool. His first mate Smee, played with a wink-nudge-and-nod style of charm by Topher Williams, agilely follows along with Boyer’s Hook. The duo work well together, making every scene with Hook and Smee partake a memorable one.
closes August 20, 2018
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Rounding out the cast, Meghan Abdo balletically moves about the stage with the wide eyed innocence of Wendy Darling. While Ashley K. Nicholas and Danny Pushkin romp about in the ensemble, with Nicholas in charge of ALL of the lost boys, and Pushkin in turn commanding ALL of the Pirates through clever use of puppets. Pushkin also takes a memorable turn as the tick-tocking Crocodile, combined with yet ANOTHER of the delightful puppets. Pushkin, of the two, seems to also offer a master class on metalinguals, seemingly able to produce an endless array of sounds and noise.
On the production end, I have to mention again Daniel Pinha’s set. Combined with Amy Kellett’s work as scenic charge, it is probably one of the most playful sets I’ve seen this year. Dressed with all sorts of fun knick-knacks and details, it itself is almost like a picture-find one would see in a kid’s magazine, evoking that constant sense of play.
Puppets by Dre Moore, of which I was informed there are 53, really steal the show at times. From ducks to the Lost Boys, to the Crocodile, it just goes to show that if there’s something outside of the realm of possibility for a human actor, send in a puppet.
Sarah Tundermann’s lights effectively moved us from place to place within the surprisingly small space, while Neil McFadden’s sound, through use of recognizable music for some moments, and simple, but effective musicality in others, focuses the world in a fun and friendly way. Lights and Sound together with the Set manage to constantly evoke a sense of “home” as well as a sense of “adventure”.
And as for the fairies – Tundermann’s Lights, McFadden’s Sound, and Moore’s Puppets work in a rather elegant harmony to create them.
Moyenda Kulemeka’s costumes help highlight and present each character, while easily allowing them to slip back into the ensemble as needed. Each character gets a fresh spin on their classic looks.
Special props to Jenny Male’s movement and fights. While the fights took place in relatively cramped spaces, they worked decently well. However, the biggest gasp of the night goes to a beautifully performed lift to indicate a take-off into flight. The delight that brought to an entire audience for a single moment alone is worth applause.
Technically proficient, and enthusiastically acted, Tinker Bell is a light, spirited, and colorful romp from our world, to Neverland, and back.
Tinker Bell (World Premiere), Based on the works of Sir J.M. Barrie, Adapted for the stage by Patrick Flynn. Direction by Nick Olcott. Featuring: Megha Abdo, Peter Boyer*, Carlos Castillo, Ashley K. Nicholas, Michelle Polera, Danny Pushkin, Topher Williams. Understudies: Michelle Huey, Matt Meyers, Tendo Nsubuga, Gabby Wolfe. Production: Movement and Fight Direction: Jenny Male. Scene Designer: Daniel Pinha. Costume Designer: Moyenda Kulemeka. Lighting Designer: Sarah Tunderman Sound Designer: Neil McFadden. Props & Puppets Designer: Andrea “Dre” Moore. Stage MAnager: Kathryn Dooley. Assistant Stage Manager: Lydia McCaw. Master Electrician: Will Voorhies. Scenic Charge: Amy Kellett. Produced by Adventure Theatre MTC. Reviewed by: Jon Jon Johnson.