Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Peter Pan
Brilliantly Un-Grown-Up
Landmark Musicals

Review by Rob Spiegel


Zoey Reese
Photo by Max Woltman
When I was a little kid, the 1954 Broadway production of Peter Pan ran on our small TV. The story was magical, even in black and white, and even though we could see the strings that allowed Peter and the Darling kids to fly. Tinkerbell was just a flickering light, but she was fully alive to me. I didn't even mind that Peter Pan was a woman—Mary Martin in her career-defining role. The show jumped off the TV screen fully alive. I decided I didn't want to grow up either.

That production, with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh and music by Morris Charlap (with additional lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and additional music by Jule Styne), has stayed pretty much intact for many decades across a ton of Broadway productions, and on through to the TV broadcast with Allison Williams two years ago. Now it shakes its talk feathers on stage at Rodey Theatre in a thoroughly delightful Landmark Musicals production directed by Laurie Finnegan and produced by Myra Cochnar and Louis Giannini.

Every second of this production is sweet, from the moment Peter (Zoey Reese extending the decades-long tradition of a grown woman playing Peter) climbs into the Darling kids' bedroom seeking his shadow. The magic soars when Peter rises into the air and becomes the flying boy who won't grow up. He's followed by John (Jackson Murrieta), Michael (Charlie Arthur Groves), and the Wendy (the wonderful Ariana Gant), all taking flight. These are some brave young actors who clearly trust the tiny-thin cables. It's a beautiful sight.

And on they go to Neverland and all its frights and excitements, from the Indians led by Tiger Lily (Courtney Giannini), Captain Hook (Ed Chavez, who is delightful as both the evil captain and the goofy Darling father), and his pirates, as well as the Lost Boys, a shabby crew of orphans seeking a mother.

It's in Neverland that Louis Giannini gets creative. He has long worked with Landmark as a choreographer. In recent productions, including Peter Pan, he has co-produced with Cochnar. His wife Courtney Giannini joins him here as co-choreographer (and as Tiger Lily). I've seen a number or productions with Giannini's dance work, but this is the best so far, and that's saying a lot, as he's always very strong. Must be the charm of working with Courtney. I was also surprised that he and Cochnar were able to find a group of fine dancers at a time when the numerous Nutcracker productions are enlisting armies of Albuquerque dancers.

There are standouts throughout the production, from Chavez as Captain Hook to Giannini as Tiger Lily to Gant as Wendy, and especially Reese as Peter. Yet this remains an ensemble show with the entire cast moving the story forward. Great Lost Boys, Great Indians. Great pirates (including Giannini himself). Everything works. Terrific live music (music director, Darby Fegan), nice lighting, especially Tinkerbell (Shawn Nielson, lighting designer), nice staging (Dahl Delu as production manager and Maddie Barker as stage manager). The Lost Boys action spills out onto the side of the stage which works well.

This is a big production with a zillion moving parts, all well-oiled, well considered, and well delivered. I've seen a number of productions in Albuquerque that absolutely topped expectations. White Christmas by Albuquerque Little Theatre two years ago and The Addams Family by Musical Theatre Southwest last year come to mind. Peter Pan by Landmark is right up there with the best I've seen in our vibrant theatre community. After experiencing this intoxicating production with my daughter, I find I haven't grown up much and this lovely musical still steals young hearts.

Peter Pan by Landmark Musicals will run through December 11, 2016. Performances are on Friday and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm. There will also be special matinee performances on Saturday December 3 and 10 at 2:00 pm. Performances are held in Rodey Theatre at the UNM Fine Arts Complex. Tickets are $22, $24, and $26, with a $2 discount for students and seniors. You can buy tickets online at landmarkmusicals.org, or by calling 505-925-5858 or 877-664-8661.


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