It is a first for Timber Lake Playhouse as huge production of “Peter Pan” opens tonight. There is much excitement surrounding this event as the musical version captures the timeless tale with multiple sets, rotating stage and, yes, actors that fly.
The flying aspect, in fact, is its own consideration in rehearsals, TLP artistic director Jim Beaudry notes, because of the demands of functionality and safety. It’s not every day that actors sing and fly at the same time.
But luckily, Beaudry commented some years ago, TLP is always “up for a challenge,” referring to “Singin’ in the Rain” where front row audience members were ushered with programs and rain slickers.
J. M. Barrie wrote this stage play that premiered in 1904 with great success, then the novel “Peter and Wendy” in 1911. It morphed into the musical version in 1954 with songs by Carolyn Leigh, “Moose” Charlap, Betty Comden and Adolph Green and Julie Styne. Adaptation was by famed choreographer Jerome Robbins.
Whether literature, theatre, or film, the root of this timeless fantasy was born in the mind of Barrie after his older brother died in an ice skating accident one day before his fourteenth birthday. The family referred to him as “the boy who would never grow up.” The phrase seems nearly oxymoronic as the cheerful part is a still portrait of a carefree youth while a veil of sadness follows ever after.
Returning TLP figure Zachary Gray took on the direction and choreography of “Peter Pan.” Based in Chicago and graduate of arts-oriented Columbia College, he has a long list of credits, including his “West Side Story” choreography for TLP in ’08.
Playing the role of Peter, Rosie Upton is appropriately cast since often the character is a female, the image of a delicate young thing that would never mature. She has a special presence that utilizes strong character, yet a finely chiseled face that seems unisex; a perfect Peter Pan. She hails from Maine and will graduate from Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Ohio with emphasis on Music.
Her vocal gifts are clearly evident as she eases through songs “I’m Flying” and “I gotta crow,” but astounding with her soprano range in “Oh, My Mysterious Lady” with Captain Hook.
Returning character actor and TLP favorite Cody Jolly plays the hysterical and captivating Captain Hook. By his very entrance, Jolly is the quintessential character that gathers titters before he utters a word of script. Once he utters, every sentence, every nuance, every facial expression runs a complete inventory of ridiculousness, as in “Hook’s Tango.” We’ll watch his career carefully!
Beaudry notes that of some 1200 who auditioned from all over the country for the roles of Peter and Hook, Upton and Jolly were the clear choices.
Holly Moss as Wendy finds her way flying from bedroom to Neverland and back again with all the ups (literally) and complications of growing up or not growing up. She exudes the image well and delivers a touching solo after the Lost Boys build a house around her. It’s a precious pause amid imaginings where her vocal talent questions growing up.
Mrs. Darling by Paige ManWaring opens the first act with her sound delivery yet hint that this story may take a turn for a runaway tale as does Mr. Darling by Jolly.
The imaginings unfold until you think it quite normal that a laugh breaks into a thousand pieces, or that your shadow is an object that can be accidentally lost in some drawer, or if you say out loud that you don’t believe in fairies that one somewhere drops dead.
It takes many characters to put together this story including Indians, Pirates, Lost Boys, and various entrances and exits of a croc, Nana and Tinker Bell as a sometimes rebellious pool of light. Tia Pinson is notable as Tiger Lily with Amelia Jo Parish as Smee, Alexis Aker as Liza, Charles Benson as Noodler, Eli Ekmmit as Nibs, Tyler Klingbiel as Slightly, Samuel Leicht as Curly, Chandler Smith as Tootles and Kianee Truvillion as Indian among others.
Outstanding costumes by Julane Sullivan, especially Hook’s loud garb, scenic design by Benjamin Lipinski with special note for Neverland Island.
Hurry for tickets to dream away for all ages! Fourteen performances tonight through July 12 at (815) 244-2035 or