Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cincinnati

Peter Pan
National Tour
Review by Scott Cain | Season Schedule

The Cast
Photo by Matthew Murphy
Though many theatregoers attending the national tour of the musical Peter Pan currently playing at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati have likely seen the show before, they will definitely experience something new this time around. Though Neverland is still the home of pirates, lost boys, and fairies, this updated version corrects antiquated ideas and puts a fresh spin on the piece.

Peter Pan is one of several musical adaptations of the original J. M. Barrie 1904 play, Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up. The familiar story follows the adventures of Peter, a boy who doesn't want to grow up (and never will while living in Neverland) and has the ability to fly, thanks to fairy dust from his pal Tinkerbell. He visits a girl named Wendy and her two brothers, Michael and John. Peter convinces them to come with him to Neverland. While there, Peter introduces the trio to his friends, the Lost Boys, and they also have run-ins with indigenous peoples, led by Tiger Lily, and pirates, led by the dangerous Captain Hook. This musical premiered on Broadway in 1954 and has had a number of subsequent stage mountings and TV broadcasts.

This Peter Pan hasn't historically credited a bookwriter, rather stating that it is a musical version of the play by Sir James Barrie, with original staging by Jerome Robbins. For this tour, the show received changes to the book by Larissa Fasthorse, who wrote new dialogue and provided two primary updates to the story. The first is to set the show in current day–the scene in the Darling children's bedroom opens with Wendy attempting to create a viral video. Secondly, the plot celebrates, rather than derides, indigenous peoples. The changes are appropriate and not heavy handed, though the removal of family dog Nana (always a fan favorite) is unfortunate. The overall story is fun, imaginative, and varied, which keeps the many young theatregoers engaged. The importance of family, even if non-traditional, and of letting kids be kids, remain major themes.

The score for the adaptation is a combination of material by two different songwriting teams. The original show began life with songs by Morris "Moose" Charlap (music) and Carolyn Leigh (lyrics), but, before the premiere, additional songs were added by Jule Styne (music) and Betty Comden and Adolph Green (lyrics). The different composers and styles give the show a nice variety of sound, including jaunty, energetic songs, lullabies, operetta-style ballads, dance interludes, and fun character numbers. The score overall is pleasant, but not great, with the best songs being "Neverland" by Styne/Condem/Green, and "I'm Flying", "Tender Shepard", and the playful "I Won't Grow Up," all by Charlap and Leigh. For this updated tour, the culturally insensitive song "Ugg-a-Wugg" has been updated with lyrics by Amanda Green (daughter of Adolph Green) to form a new number, "Friends Forever."

The major productions of this musical in the past have featured a woman portraying Peter, most notably Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan, and Cathy Rigby. For this mounting, Nolan Almedia takes on the leading role. He captures the immature, impetuousness of the character, conveys an exciting sense of wonder, and sings capably, with a unique vocal delivery similar to that of Colton Ryan, who was recently the lead for Broadway's New York, New York. As Mr. Darling and Captain Hook, Cody Garcia is a fun foil to Peter, and brings the right amount of flamboyance without going over the top. His Hook is more mischievous and mean than menacing, which is probably a good choice with so many small children in the audience. Hawa Kamara is an endearing and spirited Wendy, in a role that has also been built up to celebrate the empowerment of women. As Mrs. Darling, Shefali Deshpande supplies aptly delicate singing and acting. The entire cast does an admirable job in all respects. In supporting roles, Reed Epley (Michael), William Foon (John), Raye Zaragoza (Tiger Lily), and Kurt Perry (Smee) are all praiseworthy. This non-Equity tour has been cast with diversity in mind, which is a welcome approach.

Veteran Broadway director and actor Lonny Price provides playful and active direction, keeping many of the traditional elements while introducing a few new ones as well. His staging of "I Gotta Crow" skillfully incorporates projections by David Bengali. The dances by Lorin Latarro aren't quite as challenging as the previous choreography for the show, but are appropriate and well-executed. The nine-piece touring orchestra is led by Jonathan Marro and sounds great.

The set design by Anna Louizos features colorful and nicely detailed pieces similar to past mountings, and conveys the many locales of the show clearly. The lighting by Amith Chandrashaker is professionally rendered, and the costumes by Sarafina Bush are apt and attractive. Paul Kieve's "Tinker Bell" design, David Bengali's aforementioned projections, and Paul Rubin's flying sequences add to the show's whimsical and magical moments.

Even though he's been entertaining audiences for several generations, this isn't your parents' or grandparents' Peter Pan. The current production provides several timely and necessary updates while still retaining the joy of the traditional production. With a talented cast, this tour is sure to create a whole new generation of fans of the show.

Peter Pan runs through March 24, 2024, at the Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati OH. For tickets and information, please call 513-621-2787 or visit For more information on the tour, visit