The Seattle Children's Theatre production of "Peter Pan."
Theater review |
When that special moment arrives in any stage production of “Peter Pan,” the moment when the boy from Neverland swoops from the starry sky into the Victorian nursery of the Darling children, you can almost taste the delighted awe of the very young ones in the audience.
That moment in Seattle Children Theatre’s version of the Broadway musical “Peter Pan,” under Linda Hartzell’s direction, holds that magic. The show also boasts a charming, robust Peter in Eric Ankrim, and a deliciously dastardly Captain Hook (Peter’s pirate nemesis) in David Pichette.
But not every cylinder is firing in SCT’s launching of a show that’s enthralled several generations since it landed on Broadway in 1954 with an airborne, androgynous Mary Martin as J.M. Barrie’s mythic flyboy.
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SCT has had success with other iconic, elaborate fantasias (i.e., last season’s “Wizard of Oz”). But “Peter Pan” carries some special demands that aren’t fully met.
First there is the stage flying (engineered by the legendary Foy company, which has flown Peter Pans for a half-century). It is graceful enough, but with budget constraints, quite limited in scale.
More crucial are the musical gaffes. It’s not surprising to have a smaller pit band playing this catchy score (composed by Mark Charlap and Jules Styne, with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden and Adolph Green).
However, the delicate balance of woodwinds, piano and percussion in SCT’s combo is upset by the blustery intrusions of trumpet and French horn. And while Emily Chisholm is otherwise a fine Wendy, her thin voice strays painfully off-key when singing solo.
Ankrim, fortunately, sings well, and his tenor renditions of “I’ve Got to Crow,” “Neverland” and “Mysterious Lady” (which, in a bit of gender-swapping, he performs in the guise of a female temptress) are highlights.
Pichette holds his own vocally also, as he sneers through his numbers with panache. The production also features some chipper dance numbers choreographed by Marianne Roberts (including some for Khanh Doan’s vaguely Polynesian Indian leader, Tiger Lily), some eye-catching sets by Carey Wong and one of the coolest puppet crocodiles ever (crafted by Scott R. Gray).
But the show doesn’t consistently sparkle — also, perhaps, because Peter’s Lost Boys are more like Lost 20-somethings. And some beguiling bits have been cut. What’s “Peter Pan” without glittering fairy dust? Or Peter believing a button is a kiss?
For small children who have only seen Peter Pan and Tinker Bell flit across a screen, such criticisms may be moot. At a recent evening at SCT, they were very attentive — from Peter’s first fly-in to his final fly-out.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org