Review of Peter Pan at ACT

Asheville Community Theatre kicks off its 2009-2010 season of musicals and comedies with the adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s beloved tale of the boy who never grew up. Featuring an enormous cast of local musical-theatre veterans, as well as a slew of small children, this production is no small undertaking and ACT has risen to its many challenges. This has clearly been a show crafted from great affection and many hours of dedication from a lot of folks.

We begin a bit slowly in the Darling children’s nursery. Their parents have gone out for the evening, and the titular character, energetically portrayed by James Meador, pays them an unexpected, though not unwelcome, visit. The ensuing scene between Peter and Wendy Darling (Anna Franklin) isn’t quite the antidote yet to a rather pokey start — but they’re not even up in the air yet.

Speaking of, the flight crew, headed by Adam Cohen, was quite adept at stealthily hooking people to harnesses and skillfully maneuvering them around stage. One is never sure whether to expect magic or terror once the children are airborne; mercifully it was more of the former. Wendy’s brothers, John (Theo Sturz) and Michael (the impossibly cute Gavin Keith Reep), wake up to the commotion and soon all three are off to join Peter at Neverland, where Wendy has agreed to be mother and raconteur (raconteuse?) to Peter, the Lost Boys, and, oddly, her own brothers.

Here’s where the fun really gets rolling. Pirates! Huzzah! Fronted by John Hall as Captain Hook and ACT familiar face Ricky Webb as Smee, the group of singing scallywags bring some welcome rowdiness and comedy. I’ve always found Captain Hook to be a particularly fun nemesis; he’s sort of the Woody Allen of villains. Hall is delightful (and tall!) in bringing all of Hook’s bravado and ridiculous paranoia to life. Webb is equally adept as go-to/life-coach/peon Smee; he and the rest of the shipmates are as brash, dull-witted, and thoroughly likeable as you’d please.

The real shining group to me, though, was the Lost Boys. I have a big place in my heart for middle and high school guys who are willing to really sell musical theatre numbers. This group was the most consistently committed to their roles and their songs that I’ve seen in a while. They had tremendous physical energy and big vocals, and weren’t afraid to be silly or over-the-top. Great kudos to casting, directing and to the boys’ fearlessness.  Even the fanciful woodland slide to their hideout was a highlight of Scott Allred’s scenic design.

Costumes, by Kate Russell, were plentiful and well-imagined, as was the choreography by Mary Katherine Smith, who plays Tiger Lily. The Act Two song-and-dance number “Ugh a Wug” was a big crowd pleaser; it was most impressive to sustain such a large choreographed dance with so many children. Well done.

Overall, Peter Pan is a well-realized production of the classic story for and about children.

Peter Pan, based on the Play by James M. Barrie. Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Music by Mark Charlap and Jule Styne. Directed by Jerry Crouch. Musical Direction by Chuck Taft. Through Sunday, Sept. 27. Fridays, 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays, 2:30pm.Tickets: $22 – adults; $19 – seniors/students; $12 – children. Asheville Community Theatre Box Office, 35 E. Walnut St. 254-1320. www.ashevilletheatre.org  

Watch Tiger Lily and the Native Princesses dancing here.

***A&E Editor Rebecca Sulock’s note: This performance of Peter Pan carries special significance. It marks the 50th anniversary of Tanglewood Youth Theatre (of which this editor is an alum). The production also finds five sets of family members performing together: Lori Hilliard (playing Mrs. Darling), who starred as Wendy 25 years ago in the original Tanglewood production of Peter Pan, performs with her eight-year-old daughter Preston (making her ACT debut as a Native Princess). The Prestons are joined by four other family groups: John and Anna Kate Hall (father and daughter) as Captain Hook and a Native Princess, Ruth Butler and Van Raynor (mother and son) as Rosie Flint and a Lost Boy, Bill and Aislin Thompson (father and daughter) as a Pirate and Tinker Bell, and Lochlan and Lincoln Belford (brothers) as Lost Boys.***     

• Credits:
Technical Direction by Matt Kauffman
Assistant Technical Direction – Jill Summers
Flight Captain – Adam Cohen
Scenic Design by Scott Allred
Design Consultant – Jack Lindsay
Costume Design by Kate Russell
Lighting Design by Rob Bowen
Hair and Makeup Design by Tricia Zinke of Salon Red
Properties Design by Ann Silkie & Barbara Fishburne
Choreography by Mary Katherine Smith
Stage Manager – Chris Martin

Flying Effects provided by ZFX, Inc. 

Narrator   …………..….……………..………………….….………………..Frank Avery
Peter Pan……………………….…………………..…………………………James Meador
Wendy Darling………………………………..……………….………………Anna Franklin
John Darling……………………………………………….………………….Theo Sturz
Michael Darling………………………………..….………………………….Gavin Reep
Mrs. Darling……………………………………………………..….…………Lori Hilliard
Mr. Darling / Captain Hook………………….…….…………..…………….John Hall
Liza, the Maid………………………………………..……………………….Dionne Reep
Jane, Wendy’s Daughter…………………………………………………….Hannah Black

• The Lost Boys
Slightly……………………………….………..………………………………Dylan Murray
Toodles…………………..…………….……………….………………………Lincoln Belford
Curly………………………………….…….……………..…………………….. Wes McCleary Small
Nibs………………………………….………..….…….………………………..Lochlan Belford
Twin 1………………………………………………………………………….Austin Kellenberger
Twin 2……………………………..……………………………………..…………..Van Raynor
Odysseus………………………………………………………………………….. Kristian Wilken
Fiddler……………………………………………………………………………….. Thomas Propest
Wolf………………………………………………………………………………………….. Wolfe Lanier

• The Natives
Tiger Lily……………………………………………….……….Mary Katherine Smith
Princess Little Panther……………………………………..……………Lexie Moore
Chief Big Panther ……………………………………………………..David Bruce

• Native Princesses
Genevieve Wiedeman, Tess Miller, Alexia Grant, Kristen Palotta,
Maria Papakonstantinou, Anna Kate Hall, Summer Nordmeyer, Hannah Black,
Liza Rain, Preston Hilliard, Ana Roberts, Aislin Thompson

The Pirates
Smee……………………………………………………………..……………………Ricky Webb
Starkey…………………………………………………………………………………. Doug Hauschild
Cookson………………………………………………………………………………………. David Quinn
Jukes……………………………………………………………………………………………………..Tim Geib
Rosie Flint……………………………………………………………………………………. Ruth Butler
Mullins……………………………………………………………………………………………… Jesse Lee
Noodler………………………………………………………………………………………….. Frank Salvo
Cecco………………………………………………………………………………………. Bill Thompson
Skylights ……………………………………………………………………….Frank Avery

• Neverland “Creatures”
Tinker Bell……………….……………………………..…………….…Aislin Thompson
Mermaid………………….………………………….………….…….……Rachelle Roberts

• Musicians
Violin – Oleg Melnikov
Woodwinds/Flute – Sabrina Kumar
Woodwinds/Clarinet – Jim Anthony
Trumpet – Tim Morgan
French Horn – Hobart Whitman
Percussion – David Bruce
Keyboard – Nora Vetro

SHARE
About Webmaster
Mountain Xpress Webmaster Follow me @MXWebTeam

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.