BWW Reviews: PETER PAN Soars at Playhouse on the Square

By: Nov. 23, 2013
Andrews as Captain Hook and Lindsey Roberts as Peter Pan

The musical version of the tale of the boy who wouldn't grow up is once again alive on the Memphis stage. Lindsey Roberts reprises the title role with aplomb. Her athletic, wide-eyed energy and callow delivery give Peter a believable boyish charm that makes us again suspend our disbelief and embark on a harrowing journey through Neverland. I have not seen, nor can I imagine, anyone more fully inhabiting that part.

Jordan Nichols, assisted by Travis Bradley, directed and choreographed with skill and vision that kept the show fresh while preserving its time-honored vibe.

The casting in this story is tricky since the principals play dual roles. I liked Bill Andrews' transformation from Mr. Darling to Captain Hook because his diabolical pirate had just the right scary/comedic balance. Adults chuckled, while tots sat on the edges of their seats (as opposed to being rushed from the gallery in tears). Charity Ruth Haskins carried off two extremes: matronly Mrs. Darling and exotic Tiger Lily so disparately that it hardly seemed possibly we were watching the same actress. Her dance solos were graceful and accomplished. Caroline Simpson made a warm and winsome Wendy. (Though I wish they'd given her stage hair that looked a little less "wiggy.") Henry Green played a dynamic, young John Darling, and I'm still trying to get my mind around the fact that the baby brother, Michael Darling, was actually played by eleven-year-old Lucy Nassif. She was that real.

The endearing lost boys carried consistent high energy through their large repertoire. It's easy to feel good about shows filled with local children because they're wholesome community efforts. That's not what I'm getting at here. These kids delivered a professional-level performance that would hold up anywhere.

Likewise, the chorus of Pirates/Indians brought precision and imagination to every nuance they performed. They were simultaneously a tight ensemble, and a group of worth-watching individual performers with fine-tuned song, dance, expressions and reactions.

Adding to the fun of this kind of show, of course, are the audible reactions of four and five year-olds sure to be seated nearby. The croccodile (eeek!) is slinkier, scarier (and three feet longer) this year, thanks to Kathleen Kovarik who made the costume and Morgan Howard who wore it.

But it wasn't just tots whose spontaneous responses spoke to the wonderment onstage. Joe Ragey's scenic design John Horan's lighting design make for a multi-faceted, magical experience. The sleepily-lit nursery at bedtime actually caused a few yawns erupt in the audience, the first peek at Neverland made our jaws drop. Thanks to Matthew Crewse and his team, actors flew, singing and dancing through the air with (well orchestrated) abandon.

When the final curtain fell and the lights came up, the children in our vicinity remained spellbound, while the adults came back down to earth in search of car keys and coats. Whatever your age, Peter Pan at Playhouse is an evening well spent. Revisiting this story every so often reminds us we must keep the spark of childhood twinkling in our hearts . . . and never stop wishing we could fly . . . .

Peter Pan plays at Playhouse on the Square, 66 South Cooper, from November 22, 2013-January 5, 2014.

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