BWW Review: Fly Away with PETER PAN

Kim Corbett at Peter Pan (center) and the Darling family, their
maid Liza (Isabel Garcia), and their dog Nana (Doug Reed).
Photo provided by Fireside Theatre

On a lovely Sunday afternoon at the Fireside Theatre, just hours before the new work week was set to begin, adults in the audience for Peter Pan smiled along to the repeated utterance of "I won't grow up."

Indeed, in a world like ours who would want to abandon their childish dreams?

The 1954 musical -- with lyrics primarily by Carolyn Leigh and music primarily by Morris (Moose) Charlap is based on the 1904 play and a 1911 novel by J.M. Barrie -- follows the story of a young boy named Peter Pan whose life in Neverland means that he never has to grow up.

Peter Pan is also widely known because of the 1953 Disney animated film that includes songs audiences may expect -- and not find -- in this musical.

Peter, a role that is traditionally played by a woman, is played by a charming Kim Corbett who sweeps an adventure-seeking Wendy, Michael, and John Darling away from their London home to Peter's beloved home in Neverland where fun is always on the agenda and growing up is not.

Wendy (Jennifer Bissell with a contagious smile), Michael (Josiah Kapelke), and John (Connor Martin) embark on a familiar journey battling Captain Hook (Randall Dodge) and his band of pirates and befriending Tiger Lily and the "Indians" all while enjoying the parent-free lifestyle of the Lost Boys.

Although this production is draped in child-like wonder, games, and some fabulously elaborate costumes (looking at you Hook, Nana, and Crocodile) by Robin Buerger, it's impossible not to address the elephant in the room.

Peter Pan is - in many ways - a beloved story of the wonders of imagination, childhood, and a piece of theatrical history. But the antiquated nature of the text itself includes politically incorrect portrayals of Native Americans.

That is part of the trouble with older shows - we see the world differently now than we did when they were written.

But, that aside and in all seriousness, Fireside's production of Peter Pan is an exuberant celebration of fantasy and childhood.

Doug Reed lumbers around in giant dog and crocodile costumes as he plays both Nana and the "tick tock croc".

Dodge as Captain Hook (center) and his band of pirates.
Photo provided by Fireside Theatre

It's marvelous and he completely steals the show whenever he gets on stage.

Arianne Meneses as Tiger Lily, as well as the other "Indian" dancers, are phenomenal in their handful of dance numbers.

Corbett's overwhelming charisma makes her the ideal Peter as she struts her stuff in the iconic role. Every crowing croon lands perfectly with Corbett's uncanny stage presence. It's hard not to fall under her spell as she tries to get Wendy and company to stay forever in the mystical Neverland.

But, undoubtedly leading the pack, is Dodge as Captain Hook.

From the moment he traipses to the stage -- donning a sequined and beautifully plumed hat no less -- Hook snags his audience. From his high pitched squeals to the purr of his baritone, Dodge is the Hook that Christopher Walken could only hoped to have been.

Director Ed Flesch and musical director Mary Ehlinger took a fairy tale musical and cast it in fairydust. The performers are magical and the music is lovely.

This show makes me long for childhood.

And, at the end of the day, isn't that the truest meaning behind Peter Pan?

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From This Author Amanda Finn

Amanda lives in Madison, WI and joined BWW in the spring of 2014. She has relished every moment spent in a theatre since then. She (read more...)

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