Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of Disney's Beauty and the Beast
The reality is that this scrappy company simply does not have the resources to mount a full out production of J.M. Barrie's play, requiring about 15 actors, three richly detailed settings, period costumes, and a large staging area, not to mention a huge hunk of flying, as four characters take to the skies. So, instead we have Artistic Director Eric Davis' highly theatrical mindset operating at warp speed to create a production which will mesh well with the stylistically very different prequel. The flying is suggested by actors moving stick puppets with streamers through the air, while Tinkerbell is more vivid than I've ever seen before. Another interesting element is that Davis has the actors read many if not all of J.M. Barrie's stage directions, which are vividly written, giving the audience a unique perspective on the characters and their actions. Musical director Michael Raabe has written some songs in the spirit of Peter and the Starcatcher that enhance the merriment. This show should enchant children from 1 to 92. I am told that tickets before the first of the year are already quite scarce. The good news is that both shows will play through the end of January 2017.
Chris Crawford returns as the chief villain Captain Hook (and he plays the corresponding Black Stache in Peter and the Starcatcher). As Hook, he would be mustache twirling, except that it is grease painted on, quite over the top. Taylor Simmons is our Peter, opposite the Wendy of Gabriella Guinta. There is no performance on December 30 as these two will marry each other in real life. Talk about life imitating art, or is it the other way around? Wendy's brothers are played by Chris Metz as John and Cameron Kubly as Michael. Both are adorable in the parts, even if the audience is called upon to imagine them 10 years or more younger than they are. Mrs. Darling, doubling as Tiger Lily who has little or nothing to do in this version, is in the capable hands of Marissa Toogood. Peter is aided by Chris Rutherford as Nibs and Daniel Schwab as Whibbles, while Hook's band consists of John Mark Jernigan as Smee, Britt Michael Gordon as Tootles, Robert Teasdale as Slightly, Clinton Harris as Jukes and doubling as Lean Wolf, and Susan Haldeman as Starkey, also doubling as Nana. I want to point out that Mr. Teasdale and Mr. Gordon are proving to be great assets to freeFall in a wide variety of roles in different productions.
The show is staged on the set used for Peter and the Starcatcher designed by Charles Murdock Lucas with its backdrop of nightshirts hanging on multiple clotheslines. This ties into a plot point for that show but is not ideal for Peter Pan. Still, with all the inventiveness going on onstage, this is not a problem. Costumes by Eric Davis are inventive and suggest the period. He also designed the propsone important job on a production is never enough for this brilliant theater artist. Resident lighting designer Ryan E. Finzelber provides a kaleidoscope of color and light. Scott Daniel is responsible for wig and hair design, Blake Braswell choreographs the many fights, and Chris Crawford is fight captain to go along with his other captainly duties. All of these people combine their talents to deliver a wonderfully entertaining two hours.
Peter Pan and Peter and the Starcatcher continue in repertory through January 29, 2017. Audiences have an opportunity to see both together on Saturdays. For certain, these productions are going to be a big hit for freeFall, grab your tickets while you can.
freeFall Theatre Company presents Peter Pan through January 29, 2017, at 6099 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg. For ticket and performance information, visit www.freefalltheatre.com.
Cast (in alphabetical order):
Director/Artistic Director: Eric Davis