BWW Reviews: PETER PAN at Georgetown Palace Is A Magical Delight
Anyone who's seen a production of Peter Pan, or at least one of the televised versions starring Mary Martin or Cathy Rigby, knows that there's a moment late in the evening in which Peter turns to the audience and begs everyone to clap their hands if they believe in fairies. It's a moment that easily measures the success of the production. If the show isn't connecting with the audience, Peter's pleas are met with a smattering of golf claps. But at the Georgetown Palace, that iconic moment is met with deafening applause and cheers.
The beloved 1954 musical-which features music by Moose Charlap and Julie Styne with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green-closely follows James M. Barrie's classic story of a boy who won't grow up. Of course, Barrie's story and characters create quite a few challenges when brought to the stage (it's remarkable to think that Peter Pan debuted as a non-musical play back in 1904), but the Palace's production handles them all with incredible ease. Yes, Peter and his pals fly, thanks to flight choreographer Bill Auld. The flight effects, which are quite impressive, are not overused. Each moment of flight feels special and greatly adds to the story, particularly in the climactic battle between Pan and his nemesis, Captain Hook.
Michael Davis's set is a thing of beauty as well. Like other musicals of its era, Peter Pan is a set-heavy show, and Davis brilliantly handles the demands of the material. The Darling nursery set at the opening and closing of the show is particularly stunning. When Davis's sets are complemented by the vivid costumes by Ramona Haass and the colorful lighting by Dylan Rocamora, Pan's magical island of Neverland brilliantly comes to life.
Director Ron Watson also does a spectacular job with the material. The show is quick-paced and humorous, easily hitting the mark for both kids and adults. Watson's style goes hand in hand with the choreography by Jesse Smart. The dance numbers (and there are many of them) are whimsical and downright funny. Each number is a showstopper with each one better than the last.
But much of the success of the show falls squarely on the shoulders of the Palace's fantastic cast. Jayda Cournoyer is perfectly cast as Wendy. While lots of actresses play Wendy as a doe-eyed young girl completely gob smacked by the fantasy and magic of Peter's world, Cournoyer adds a bit more substance to the character. She plays Wendy as an adolescent girl stuck between childhood and adulthood, exactly the way the character should be played, and she manages to add in an occasional touch of sass and wit to the otherwise prim and proper young lady. As Wendy's brothers, Bryce Keese and Ella Rutman are quite strong. Kesse plays John as a stern know-it-all, and Rutman is sweet and adorable as the youngest brother, Michael. The rest of the youth cast members are wonderful and more than able to hold their own against the adults in the company. Brice Rafferty, a Palace favorite, once again stands out among the talented cast. As Slightly, one of Peter's gang of lost boys, Rafferty comes off as Peter's 2nd in command and turns a cameo role into a supporting one.
And as far as the adult cast goes, no amount of pixie dust and happy thoughts could find the Palace a better group of actors. Rose Yurcina brings out Peter's arrogance and childlike side with ease, and her occasionally flippant line delivery earns her quite a few laughs. But no one in the cast gets quite as many laughs as Scott Shipman as Captain Hook and Jay Garrett as his first mate, Smee. As Smee, Garrett is delightfully daft, and Shipman is a scene stealer as Hook. These two characters are often played over the top, which Garrett and Shipman do, but they also find some almost Monty Python-esque humor in their villain and sidekick shtick.
Several months ago, the Georgetown Palace announced that their 2013-2014 season would be full of old favorites and new classics. Half of the productions this season would be shows never produced at the Palace while the rest would be repeats of hits from previous seasons. Peter Pan falls into the category of shows that are new to the Palace, but I would not be shocked to see it return in several years. This production has "hit" written all over it. Peter Pan is a magical theatrical event, the likes of which rarely comes along. Trust me, you will believe in fairies.