Review: Cabrillo Takes Us Back to Neverland with a Delightful PETER PAN

By: Jul. 17, 2017

Peter Pan/a musical production of the play by Sir James Barrie/lyrics by Carolyn Leigh & music by Moose Charlap/additional lyrics by Betty Comden & Adolph Green/additional music by Jule Styne

Cabrillo, Thousand Oaks/directed by Yvette Lawrence/choreographed by Cheryl Baxter/through July 23

Peter Pan is a story filled with wonderment, and a total joy to behold onstage. Children of all ages love the idea of being able to fly and to live freely, without attachments or responsibilities. With the right casting, the show is pure magic. Now onstage through July 23 at Cabrillo Music Theatre, soon to be renamed 5 Star Theatricals, Peter Pan will never grow up, thank heavens! In this case there is not a famous star attached to the role. Carly Bracco is an immmensely talented singer, dancer, and actress who toured extensively with Cathy Rigby and played Wendy. She brings so much of herself to the role and is so much fun to watch, that nothing is lacking, making this Peter Pan a first class production.

I don't think it is necessary to rehash the plot, as we all have either read the fairy tale by James Barrie or watched the original star Mary Martin play the role on classic television reruns. The memory of Peter and the lost boys, the beautiful Indian girl Tiger Lily and the malevolent Captain Hook being chased by a crocodile with a clock inside of him linger in the mind for all time. The original Hook, Cyril Ritchard was campy and over-the-top. In this presentation, Hook comes across as a real pirate, a dashing, debonair swordsman, in spite of his cowardly traits. Gregory North, also nicely essaying the befuddled Mr. Darling, takes a pretty direct approach. No surprises, but what he does is effective, and he's a fine singer to boot! Also on board are Angela Baumgardner as the sophisticated and maternal Mrs. Darling, Sarah Miller-Crews as the pretty and resourceful Wendy, Justin Michael Wilcox, delightfully agile and terribly funny as Smee, Brittany Bentley so lovely as Tiger Lily, and let's not forget the dancing pirates ... and Missy Marion who ingeniously jumps around as Nana and then slithers as the crocodile. Micah Meyers is the quiet John and Luke Pryor makes an adorable Michael, who is quite the little acrobatic dancer. Yvette Lawrence has directed lovingly with dynamite pacing, especially in Act Two, where the opening number "Ugg-a-Wugg" steals the hour with delicious choreography from Cheryl Baxter. The sets by John Iacovelli and costumes by Shigeru Yagi delight the eye. Dan Redfeld is the expert musical director conducting the wonderful live orchestra.

As we get accustomed to star turns in the theatre. some people expect to see Bette Midler as Dolly Levi or Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan or Cathy Rigby as Peter Pan without simply appreciating the show and all it has to offer. Dolly is a very American show and Peter of a more European flavor, but both make you feel good due to the wonderful stories about love ... and the ever so score that you will hum as you leave the theatre. Carly Bracco as Peter, a triple threat performer, fills the bill with her outstanding singing voice and tomboyish manner. She really grabs hold of the role, makes it her own and makes you believe. "I Gotta Crow", "I'm Flying", "I Won't Grow Up" and "Neverland" transport you to another dimension of time and space. The show's the thing and Bracco is a fresh new star.

Peter Pan is so much more than a fairy tale; it's a story of hope for all ages. Believe that you can do anything and never give up on it, regardless of age! I was overjoyed to hear the youngsters in the audience, laughing uproariously at the silly shenanigans and joke lines. They cheered long and hard for Tinkerbell! It is a true indication that the legend has moved forward and is still bringing joy to all who encounter it. Keep sprinkling that fairy dust!

(photo credit: Ed Krieger)