BWW Review: PETER PAN at Fulton Theatre
Fulton's Peter Pan brings some refreshing and welcomed updates to a joyous American classic. First and foremost, one of the most interesting and beneficial changes to this production is the casting of the title role. Peter has traditionally, and almost exclusively, been played by an actress. Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan and Cathy Rigby have all had their turn as the boy who won't grow up.
However, director Marc Robbin decided to (gasp!) cast a youthful male (Joseph Frederick Allen) in the role, and it made all the difference. It reminded me of the Fulton's recent production of Little Shop when they eschewed the usually rough and tough Audrey II bass voice with one that was firm but definitely feminine. In both cases, the (non?) traditional casting brought refreshing insight into a familiar musical character.
Allen's plays Peter Pan as the adorable class clown with a short attention span. He is impulsive and playful, full of fun and energy. Nowhere was this more evident than the Act One closer, I Won't Grow Up. The number incorporated props like jump ropes and pogo sticks to convey a real sense of carefree childish joy.
Carolyn Anne Millers stars as Wendy Darling, and definitely lives up to the character's last name. She is sweet and kind with a constant twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face. It's very easy to see why Peter has such a crush on her. George Boben Feinmore and Noah Woods shine as her tag-along little brothers, John and Michael.
Curt Dale Clark had a great time as the villainous Captain Hook, playing him just a bit nuttier that a jar of a certain brand-name peanut butter. Clark had a great improvised bit on opening night with wacky first-mate Smee (Andrew Kindig) during a prop malfunction. This is why I love live theater.
Another welcomed revision in this production is the increased cultural sensitivity to Tiger Lilly and the other Native American characters. While still not perfect, costumes, movement, speech, and attitudes are far removed from the cringy "Ugga Wugga Wig Wam" stereotypes of productions past. Choreographer, Buddy Reeder did an excellent job incorporating some very athletic and acrobatic Native American inspired dance movements.
Both the adult and children chorus add great energy and depth to the production. I am especially impressed that over a dozen of the very talented youth members call Lancaster County home.
While I liked the realistic set for the Darling residence and the pirate ship, I wasn't as enthused with Never-Never Land. The set was funky, overly-bright, and abstract. I kept waiting for H.R. Pufnstuf to make an appearance.
In conclusion, this production of Peter Pan makes a great introduction to live theater for the young and young at heart. Furthermore, it has enough originality to recommend it for those seeing it the second (or twenty-second) time.
Tickets and more info can be found at the Fulton website.