Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Also see Jeanie's review of Jeeves Intervenes
The timeless 1904 play by J.M. Barrie was adapted for the stage in 1954 with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, additions by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and music by Morris (Moose) Charlap, plus additional tunes by Jule Styne. A perennial favorite on stage, it has also reached millions via televised or screen versions and the Disney animation. There is something unquenchable about the tale of a boy who refuses to grow up and bow to convention, a resourceful orphan and his fantastical world of Lost Boys, Pirates, and Warriors.
Spreckels brings us the full, uncut version, including all delightful dances and reprises, so the show runs about two and 1/2 hours. But that includes two generous intermissions to accommodate young patrons' need to stretch and bounce about in the lobby before settling back down, wide-eyed, to follow Peter's antics. The title role, played by a spunky, golden-voiced Sarah Wintermeyer, has seldom been performed better, to my eye and ear. Thankfully, Peter is matched by a host of first-rate actors in other roles and ensemble, making for an excellent and thoroughly satisfying performance.
There's an extended introduction to the Darling family at opening, Barrie's model of a loving, close-knit household. Father (David L. Yen) and Mother (Morgan Harrington) laugh and play with Wendy (Lucy London), John (Tony Cavallero), and Michael (James Coté), demonstrating an easygoing approach to parenting. Even maid Liza (Elise Terry) and faithful dog Nana (Andy Templeton) join in the fun. The only mistake Father makes is pooh-poohing Mother's story of a strange boy sneaking in and losing his shadow. Mother fears his return, but when Father insists that it's nonsense, we know better.
Peter Pan's first appearance soaring into the bedroom garners audible reactions and applause from the audience. And when Wendy, Michael and John take to the air themselves, heading toward Neverland, it feels as though the entire theatre will lift off and soar with them.
Once in Neverland, we meet the Lost Boys, the Pirates, and the Warriors. Tiger Lily (Michella Snider, also the show's choreographer) is a suitably strong and brave leader of her tribe, and Hook (a marvelous second role by Yen) a suitably dastardly villain with his bumbling pirate band. The Lost Boys manage to look like adorable ragamuffins, full of bravado and silliness. Schemes and nefarious plots abound, but all is saved in the end by our boy hero, of course. The final scene ensures his unfailing return, to continue delighting audiences, igniting a spark of wonder in hearts young and old.
Kudos to director Sheri Lee Miller for an amazing production, filled with twinkling lights, beautiful spectacle, and imaginative staging. Her entire team, including music director Timothy Eisman, choreographer Snider, set designers Elizabeth Bazzano and Eddy Hansen (who also provides lighting design), and costume designer Pamela Johnson deserve praise for the overall look and sound.
Don't be daunted by the running timegather your loved ones of all ages, pick up the phone and get your tickets for this one before it's gone. Do yourself a favor and spend a few glorious hours in the magic and wonder of Neverland. Curtain times are earlier than usualdon't be late!
Peter Pan, through May 20, 2018, at Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park CA. Tickets $16.00-$28.00 can be purchased online at www.spreckelsonline.com or by phone at 707-588-3400.