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Peter Pan
Manatee Players

Also see Bill's review of Colored Lights: KT Sullivan


Anna Trinci
For musical lovers this season has brought an embarrassment of riches to the Sarasota/Manatee area, and now Manatee Players brings us Peter Pan as an extra special holiday treat. They are presenting what is usually referred to as "Mary Martin version" because the show featuring Martin was telecast in 1955 and 1956 and then taped for posterity in color in 1960, rebroadcast several times, and released on video. Since that time there have been major productions: in 1979 starring Sandy Duncan; and in 1990 with Cathy Rigby who has toured with it through the years. This musical version of the boy who won't grow up started life at Edwin Lester's San Francisco and Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Companies with Cyril Richard as Mary Martin's nemesis, Captain Hook. Songs by Moose Charlap (music) and Carolyn Leigh (lyrics) include "I Gotta Crow," "I'm Flying" and "I Won't Grow Up." When it came to Broadway, it was decided that more music was required so Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolphe Green added wonderful songs such as "Neverland" and "Captain Hook's Waltz." Year after year new generations of children are introduced to Peter Pan through this version.

Manatee Players has put forward a very strong cast with a wonderful Peter at the center, Anna Trinci, who a few months ago made her Manatee Players debut as Cosette in Les Misérables. She is a wonderful actress bringing out Peter's childishness and spunk while still allowing us to see an undercurrent of insecurity. Her acting is only bettered by her singing and dancing both in the air and on the ground. She does flips while flying and I do believe that she is having the time of her life in the air. Her performance is strong enough to be compared favorably to the best of the Peters that I have seen, my favorite of which was Tovah Feldshuh at North Shore Music Theater around 1979 or 1980.

Greg Wiegers in the dual role of Mr. Darling and Captain Hook is fine, emphasizing the comic rather than the fearsome villain, hard not to do in this version. Wendy Brown is strongly maternal as Mrs. Darling, not surprising since John and Michael are played by her real life children, Garrett and Levi. At other performances John and Michael are played by Stevie Romero and Atticus Pratt. The Darling family is rounded out by Zoe Verbil as Wendy who excels in the second act as Wendy becomes mother to the Lost Boys, dancing to the song "Wendy" ("lets be quiet as a mouse and build a lovely little house for Wendy"). The large ensemble of lost boys, pirates and Indians all dance well, the lively choreography of Geena Ravella being one of the production's glories. The Indians are led by Holly Rizzo as Tiger Lilly, strongly leading the dancing in several numbers including "Ugg-a-Wugg." This young lady has been seen recently as Kim in Miss Saigon and Eponine in Les Misérables, but proves that there is life on stage for her beyond Boublil and Schönberg. She appears to be a star in the making. Scott Vitale as Smee, Captain Hook's comic foil, makes quite a lot of a part that is usually a throw away. Not since the original cast performance of Joe E. Marks, a respected supporting player in musicals of the late 1940s and 1950s have I seen the part so well played.

The production is directed by new father Steve Dawson, a favorite local leading man who himself might make a sensational Captain Hook. He proves to be as fine a director as he is musical comedy star. He directs for the comedy in the show, but allows the serious underbelly (the Lost Boys having no parents) its due. The only weaknesses are a few scenes played before the number one traveler curtain as a cover for scene changes. Some of them were just a bit awkward. Dawson has pulled strong performances from his cast and keeps the entire two-plus hours lively. It was delightful to see lots of scrubbed young faces in the audience, probably making their first trip to a live play, at the Sunday Matinee that I attended. A young lady and her younger brother were seated next to me, and they were wonderfully well behaved. I was delighted to see the young lady leaning forward in her seat, so enraptured by the performance. This is how new audiences are developed for live theater.

Every technical element of this production is strong. Projections by Marc Lalosh that drop us into the 19th century London setting through aerial photographs then fly us through banks and banks of clouds on our trip to and from Neverland are a fine example of how to use technology to enhance rather than overwhelm. Costumes by David W. Walker are highly effective, and the scenery by Donna Buckalter has a whimsical feel, certainly in keeping with the tone of the story. Lighting by Joseph P. Oshry is up to his usual high standards. In the orchestra pit there are only two musicians, Michelle Neal controlling a recorded rendering of the score from a keyboard and Paul Henry on percussion. In a conversation with the Artistic Director of the Manatee Players, Rick Kerby, I was assured that Ms. Neal has some control of the tempos. I am opposed to the use of recorded orchestral parts in theory, but honestly, I rather enjoyed the richness of the sound as opposed to maybe six live musicians which can sound thin. Let's say that the musical accompaniment for this production is effective. Sound design by Tom Sell is excellent, finally getting the bugs out of the sound system that played havoc with recent productions of Young Frankenstein. I am hoping for future shows to stay on this quality level. Flying effects by Hall Associates are excellent. Adults quickly forgot that they could see the wires and I don't think the younger set even noticed much.

Manatee Player's version of Peter Pan is about as wonderful a holiday present as a musical comedy lover could wish for.

Manatee Players presents Peter Pan at Manatee Center for the Performing Arts through December 22, 2013, at 502 3rd Ave W., Bradenton; 941 748-0111, manateeplayers.com.

Cast (In Order of Appearance)
Wendy: Zoe Verbil
John: Stevie Romero, Garrett Brown
Michael: Atticus Pratt, Levi Brown
Nana: Brandon Jamora
Mrs. Darling: Wendy Brown
Mr. Darling: Gregg Wiegers
Peter Pan: Anna Trinci
Liza: Jackie Hernandez
Slightly: Andrew Kent
Tootles: Garrett Brown, Stevie Romero
Curly: Joshua Robertson
Nibs: Chris Rudolph
Twin 1: Nicklaus Auen
Twin 2: Liam Kaiser
Captain Hook: Gregg Wiegers
Smee: Scott Vitale
Croc: Brandon Jamora, Mackenzie Grace, Hannah Beatt, Amanda Lade, Delaney Couch
Cecco: Peter Apolos
Starkey: Tim Guerrieri
Noodler: Brian Rudolph
Mullins: Paul Hernandez
Jukes: Jamie Daniel
Lux: Jeff Hosteller
Tiger Lilly: Holly Rizzo
Indians: Wendy Brown, Brandon Jamora, Jackie Hernandez, Hannah Beatt, Amanda Lade, Delaney Couch, Jessica Apatow, Mckenzie Grace
Jane: Jessica Apatow

Directed by Steve Dawson
Musical Direction by Michelle Neal
Lighting Designed by Joseph P. Oshry
Scenery by Donna Buckalter
Costumes Designed by David W. Walker
Choreography by Geena Ravella
Projections by Marc Lalosh
Sound Design by Tom Sell
Production Stage Manager: Kristin Ribble
Flying Effects by Hall Associates Flying Effects.


Photo: Anna Trinci

--William S. Oser



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