Review: Fairie Dust and Unforgettable Adventures Await With PETER PAN Flying Through at Straz Center

The classic musical’s latest remount, and adaptation takes flight through May 5, 2024 at Carol Morsani Hall .

By: May. 02, 2024
Review: Fairie Dust and Unforgettable Adventures Await With PETER PAN Flying Through at Straz Center
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“Grownup lasts such a long time, but childhood is just a moment...” -Mrs. Darling

Sir J.M. Barrie’s classic tale and 1904 play, tells the story of reference to Native Americans who inhabit a fictitious island known as Neverland. Referred to as “Piccaninny Warriors,” include Tiger Lily and her tribe as they steal pockets from the Lost Boys and try to claim the island as their own, reclaiming it from those who began to take it away from them. More recent adaptations include the 1954 musical production of the same name, Peter Pan. Together, Director Jerome Robbins and Composer Jule Styne, collaborated on a world that sold-out for 16 straight weeks, and went onto a National Tour, and even received the live-television treatment via NBC. Mary Martin portrayed the titular role of the ‘Boy who never wanted to grow up.’ As Mary Martin portrayed the role, Peter Pan has since then, been portrayed by a female presenting performer. Until now. I mean sure there have been film adaptations, but this exciting new take on the classic work is sure to delight audiences young and old.

In its newest adaptation, Playwright Larissa FastHorse, also of Native descent, and Lyricist Amanda Green, who is the daughter of original Lyricist Adolf Green, joined forces to recreate the classic work once again, to correct harmful stereotypes and update the story to modern times.

After the success of last years, Thanksgiving Play, which garnered FastHorse the accolade of being the first Native Playwright to have work produced on Broadway, it was announced she would be reworking the book for a new adaptation of Peter Pan. Her first notion was to change the setting of the opening and closing sequences from Victorian London, to Contemporary time in America. Allowing not only those who love the classic tale, but also a new generation to harness the ability of looking out any window and believing that Peter Pan can fly. However in changing the setting of the piece, we run into issues with dated narrative/culture fads stuck in the past from 3 years ago. The mention of a viral social media moment from Wendy Darling, dates the story in both time and place, and leaves us wondering if they are relying too heavily on modernizing an already beloved classic.

The intriguing thing about FastHorse’s book is the inclusion of the Native/indigenous tribes of Peter’s story. They are so intricately and delicately woven into the nature of the story that it allows the characters to be real-life forms of their otherwise Native counterparts. Taking away the dated notion of Caricatures, and the painfully obvious and cringeworthy moments of the original production. In this new adaptation Tiger Lily and her tribe represent indigenous people from all over the globe, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Americas. The tribe was forced out of their homelands, and have escaped to Neverland to preserve their ancestral cultures until time comes for them to return home.

The cast is dynamic in their storytelling, and you feel the need they have to appeal to children of all ages, and especially the child inside all of us.

At 17, Nolan Almeida is a star in the making. With a Pop-contemporary tenor ringing through, it makes the songs from the original score sound fresh and exciting. He’s effervescent and full of charisma that burst at the seams making his portrayal the perfect embodiment of the young boy he is playing. He soars above the company and has many breakout moments including the fun and rollicking “I Gotta Crow,” to the reminiscent “When I went home.” Standout moment of the night is his rendition of “Neverland.” I for one am excited to see where his career will take him next.

As Wendy Darling, Hawa Kamara is a delight. She wants to grow up all too fast, and her perseverance breaks through in every moment. Her moments with Peter are sweet, and she still has the innocence of a young girl, no matter how much she wishes to grow up.

As John and Michael, William Foon and Reed Epley, respectively, deliver the exuberance and youthful nature one would come to find in a young boy. There delight in exploring and celebrating adventure is wonderfully delivered here. Each a great addition to the company.

Shefali Deshpande is a joy as Mrs. Darling. Briefly appearing in the beginning and the closing sequence, but each time capturing the true nature of being a mother. Her moments with the children are endearing to watch.

Cody Garcia masterfully captures the succinct difference between Captain Hook and Mr. Darling. His Captain Hook is bawdy and outlandish, and a cross between Simon Pegg and Moira Rose. His antics are over the top and hilarious to watch. His Mr. Darling is staunch and stoic in the ways he wishes his house to operate, but has a sincere and kind heart. His vocal moments are the perfect representation of character performance, and he does so with gusto. 

Tiger Lily is wonderfully portrayed by Bailey Frankenberg. Her confidence and passion burst at every seam. She is fearless and backs down for nothing. Her reprise of “I Gotta Crow” is a great moment with Peter and the Darlings. Her skills at Choreography and Fight Sequences are unmatched here, and she is grounded through every moment.

Kurt Perry is hilarious as Smee. Doing Hook’s bidding is no small feat, and the charisma delivered behind his comedic timing is unmatched.

Rounding out the company and playing multiple roles are, Kenny Ramos (Acoma,Pirate), Hannah Schmidt (Zemyna,Pirate,Liza), Christina Helene Braa (Gyo Ti, Pirate, The Croc), Kiara Williams (Ife, Pirate), Shefali Deshpande (Boa Sr, Pirate), Jordan T. DeLeon (Kai Bi’a, Pirate), Michael Marrero (Aiyo,Pirate), Ryan Perry Marks (Nintoku, Pirate), respectively.

As our Lost Boys, Charles Antenen, Jonah Barricklo, Reed Epley, William Foon, Leo Gallegos, Brandon Gille, Camden Kwok, and Micah Turner Lee, respectively.

Each member of the company explode off the stage with dynamic choreography and wonderful stage presence.

Under the Direction of Lonny Price, this youthful cast delivers top-notch performances from start to finish and will make your heart soar, “Second Star to the Right, and straight on till Morning...” Lorin Latarro’s Dynamic Choreography, gives this adaptation a current and relevant feel and allows the most to come out of the performers in every moment. Paul Rubin’s stunning flight sequences take us soaring to Neverland, with every flip, twist, and turn. With Exceptionally crafted Scenic Design by Anna Louizos, the textures of the story leap from the stage. Sarafina Bush’s costume elements lend well to the characters of the show, and place the story in a more contemporary time frame. Amith Chandrashaker’s Lighting Design blends seamlessly with the world of the show, and even Tinkerbell designed by Paul Kieve is a standout. There is a stunning flying sequence included with David Bengali’s Projection Design that needs to be seen to be believed, trust me you’ve never seen anything like it.

Escape to Neverland, with the newly adapted tour of Peter Pan, flying through the Straz Center through May 5th. Laugh and travel along the adventure of Peter, Wendy, John, Michael, and Tiger Lily, as they try to outsmart the menacing Captain Hook. A fresh take on a beloved classic, and a wonderful update indeed. Featuring a score of original music, and fresh new tracks, this Peter Pan is one you will soon never forget. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.strazcenter.org. No matter the naysayers, and even the adults that may roll their eyes a time or two, there is no doubt magic in storytelling. Capturing the hearts of children from start to finish, and presenting a beloved classic in a new way to a new generation, while still remaining true to its predecessor, and that is how the creative team behind this new adaptation succeeded. It allowed the children in the audience and perhaps even the child in us all to feel what its like to dream again, even if for a short time. Allowing us to believe in the magic, even for  fleeting moment, and how important it is for us to keep that magic close to our heart.

Photo Credit: Matt Murphy, Murphy Made

 




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