BWW Reviews: Lovely Thoughts Work Magic in PETER PAN at Music Circus

Glenn Casale's history with "Peter Pan" has been one awfully big adventure that's unlikely to end any time soon. The California Musical Theatre Artistic Director headed the Tony-nominated 1999 Broadway revival, which subsequently saw an A&E television broadcast and multiple tours. The show visited Sacramento as recent as 2012, and fans of that version will appreciate pieces of costumes and dance, and even a few cast members, pulled from Casale's Cathy Rigby version for the Music Circus production, now playing at the Wells Fargo Pavilion.

BWW Reviews: Lovely Thoughts Work Magic in PETER PAN at Music CircusRecent productions about the boy who never grew up have made changes to fit the political climate, but one gets the feeling that Casale favors the respect for childhood dreams and camaraderie found in the original. Peter's island, Neverland, comes from the imagination, and how many children can speak accurate Native American language? Casale sticks with "Ugg-a-Wugg" for lyrics, painting a romantic picture of a group that honors the earth and eventually becomes an ally with another race. The drum-pounding second act opener is one of several numbers highlighting Patti Colombo's breathtaking choreography, and it garnered a great deal of well-earned applause on opening night.

Casale also brings refreshing new elements to the classic. Staged in the round, "Peter Pan" showcases what must be some of the most fantastical and visually stunning design and effects seen yet by Music Circus audiences. Fly Guy Paul Rubin creates the smooth flight sequences that take Peter, Wendy, Michael and John over two aisles in addition to the stage. Scott Klier and Jamie Kumpf provide lovely shelves lined with toys, large island trees and underground roots. Jared A. Sayeg lights the stage with tropical reds, greens and other dramatic colors. Tinker Bell sees her best days yet with small bulbs that light up in the air. And old-style lights pay homage to historical theatre as they line the stage.

In the cast, original Broadway actors Paul Schoeffler and Michael Nostrand bring their usual chemistry as the delectable scourge of the sea, Captain Hook, and his amusing right hand (because he doesn't have a left one) man, Smee. The remaining leads are more present for looks than any real significant purpose. Casale keeps a quick pace for the children in the audience, losing some of the original's perfected comic timing. And other than an outstanding Indian and Pirate ensemble, no one really stands out. The endearing script focuses on passing storybook adventures rather than individual character strengths. Its title character, Peter Pan, is an acquired taste in the Music Circus production. Jenn Colella makes a very masculine Peter with modern sensibilities. While Cathy Rigby brought a boyish wonder to Peter, Colella has a vigorous and gritty, pre-teen style that comes with a rough voice that seems better fitted to "The Simpsons." However, the one drawback did not stop children in the audience from enjoying the musical's enduring magic. Overall, the California Musical Theatre production glitters with pixie dust.


Through July 26
Music Circus

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Photos by Charr Crail.

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