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BWW Review: PETER PAN at Seacoast Repertory Theatre


Now on stage at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre

BWW Review: PETER PAN at Seacoast Repertory Theatre

J.M. Barrie's classic Peter Pan has long been known as a piece of children's literature through books and films, but it is at its magical best when performed as a stage musical.

The Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth, New Hampshire opened a more than month long run of the treasured show in a production that can be best described in one word- spectacular.

The story of the perpetually youthful Peter Pan (Aidan Heagarty), his storyland adopted mother, Wendy (Delaney Lynch), his light twinkling fairy imp, Tinkerbell, and the Lost Boys battling against Captain Hook in Neverland is all intact, but the directing team of Ben Hart and Brandon James take a free flowing and imaginative path with the material that explores every ounce of creativity that the production can muster. The classic dialogue and themes are all there, but with the freedom for the terrific ensemble to play and build from it.

With the non-traditional casting of women playing the crew of evil pirates, like the roles of Captain Hook played by Jennifer Sue Rockwell and Alyssa Dumas as faithful servant, Smee, this production is in a free fall with amazing talent.

Hart and James, doing double duty as set and costume designers, create a miracle in using every inch of the compact stage at the Rep with its intensely close stadium style seating. Actors race around the set, on the set and behind it making it seem much larger than it really is. (I can't wait to see what they do later in their season when they stage Les Misérables and Sweeny Todd.) It is as if they turned the small stage setting into a massive playground for the actors to explore. With precision set changes, creative use of space, and a goal to dazzle, the production values of this stage are solid. Elaborate costuming adds to the grandness of this production with an eye to detail throughout.

Heagarty is the heart and soul of this show portraying Peter as an impish child, both brash and pig-headed, as it should be. They move in a childlike manner, have strong vocals to support the role, and, in the hallmark moment of the show, flies effortlessly over the audience. There's a magical quality to their performance which is exactly what is needed for an adventurous trip to Neverland. Heagarty is wonderfully animated in musical numbers "I Gotta Crow," "I'm Flying," and "I Won't Grow Up."

Lynch is an experienced actor with a bachelor's in musical theater who marvelously captures the charm and innocence of the noticeably young, Wendy, who becomes Peter's adopted mother. Lynch has a warm chemistry with Heagarty and is every bit motherly with a ragtag crew of orphans.

Rockwell gives Hook a wonderfully dangerous edge unlike the foppish character usually presented. The gender switch works brilliantly, and this Hook is something to be feared. With Dumas as Hook's sidekick, Smee, this duo is a comic powerhouse offering the best laughter filled moments in the show. Their patter of one liners is a treat.

The supporting cast is a true ensemble with a mix of seasoned performers alongside the next generation of actors to grace the Seacoast stage. Stage veteran stand outs include Ben Hart as Father Darling, Tobin Moss as Tootles, Jason Faria as Slightly, and Heather Conti-Clark as Tiger Lily.

Sean Armstrong Verre as Michael Darling and Jack Dalton as Curly are the younger standouts who seem to relish every moment of performing.

With a running time of two hours and 15 minutes including intermission, this production might challenge the attention span of younger audiences. There are a few extended scenes with longer dance numbers or instrumentals that seem more lackluster than others. That's to be expected in an older classic like Peter Pan. But, overall, the magic, adventure and entertainment are nicely weaved in the balancing act of appealing to both children and adults. For young theater goers, consider going to a matinee performance.

The only suggest for this production is to work on the balance of sound in the small space. Performers are well miked with hardly any static or fade outs. And the music under conductor, Willam Asher, gives a robust orchestral sound to the show.

But the instrumental numbers, the voiceover narrations, and the balance between the accompaniment and vocals is a bit too thunderous in this space. Work on bringing down the volume or mixing it better. This is much needed for an audience that is so intimately located close to the stage.

The Seacoast Repertory Theatre is well worth a visit. With a unique theater setting, a multi-talented team of performers, and an attentive staff overseeing pandemic precautions, this theater is guaranteed to please.

And with performances of Peter Pan running through December 23, this might just be the holiday treat that brings Seacoast audiences back to the theater for the joy that it inspires.

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From This Author Dan Marois