When reviewing theatrical offerings I usually start with the director, the actors, and then move on to the sets, costumes, etc. But when it comes to the stage production of “Peter Pan,” let’s face it, the star of the show – and this is taking absolutely nothing away from Courtney King in the title role of Missouri Street Theatre’s current show – is the wonderful illusion of flying.
That’s why I feel it is wholly appropriate to first give major props to the unseen people backstage who make the onstage actors’ defiance of gravity look seamless. That includes stage manager Jeff Bristow and assistant stage manager Stephanie Whited as well as the flight crew: Anthony Lucido, Craig Scharfen, Charlie Snow, Antonio Lee and Aris Allen.
I usually sit in the same spot at the Downtown Theatre, but after seeing pictures that director Dae Spering posted to Facebook of her character, Liza the maid, soaring, which looked so real, I am going to change seats when I see the show again. To get the full effect, it is better to be centered and nearer to the back of the theater.
Speaking of Spering, the cast she directed delivered on opening night and were obviously well-prepared.
Courtney King was a delight as the impish boy who refuses to grow up. She appeared confident and daring and nailed songs such as “Never Never Land” and “I’ve Gotta Crow.” King did a wonderful job of conveying the childlike wonder so necessary for the role. Oh, and she was a graceful flyer as well.
The Darling children, Wendy (Catherine Bartomeo), John (Thomas Sklar), and Michael (Zell Steele Morrow), all brought the goods in their respective roles and shone on songs like “Tender Shepherd” and “I’m Flying.”
I haven’t counted how many Missouri Street Theatre productions I have enjoyed watching Scottie Woodard, but his hysterical pull-out-all-the-stops portrayal of Captain Hook has to be my favorite. He was flamboyant, over the top at times, understated at others and it was especially jarring when compared to the other role he played in the show, the rather staid Mr. Darling.
Michael Scott Wells may have had the biggest “demotion” from one show to the next in Missouri Street Theatre history as he played the role of Jesus Christ in the last show “Godspell” and played Nana the dog in this one. Still, he did a fine job as the canine caretaker and he was also chucklelicious as Hook’s (literal) right hand man, Smee. He also choreographed the fight scenes, which were thrilling and right on the edge of appearing dangerous – so extra kudos for that, as well.
Charles McFadden and Pam Spering designed the sets that were perfect playgrounds for the cast to work their magic. The costumes by Gina Coyle and Carol Edlinger, featured splashes of purples and reds and stripes aplenty, and were serious treats for the eyes. Captain Hook’s costume was especially radiant.
I always prefer having a live orchestra and musical director Cynthia Heath consistently brings out the very best from those who are hidden from view. I understand this is her last production here before moving, so let me thank her publicly for always delivering the musical goods in every show I have seen in which she has been a part of.
The timeless story of Peter Pan has been given numerous treatments going all the way back to 1904. Many of us grew up on the animated version and the 2004 movie “Finding Neverland” provided wonderful back story of why creator J.M. Barrie wrote what he did.
Still, to truly experience the magic of the story, it needs to be experienced live and in the moment. Clapping to save Tinkerbell’s life never gets old.
I gotta crow about this show – it is fun and fanciful for kids and for those of us who keep a place in ourselves that refuses to grow up.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org
Missouri Street Theatre presents “Peter Pan”
8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, July 5
6 p.m. Sunday, July 6
2 p.m. Saturday, July 5-6
Fairfield Center for Creative Arts, 1035 Texas St.
3 and a half stars out of four