Jim Hesselman, Madeline Perrone, Anthony Marone & Dick Baker (back)
in Peter Pan. Photo: Derby Dinner Playhouse
By Sir J.M. Barrie
Music by Morris (Moose) Charlap, lyrics by Carolyn Leigh
Directed by Lee Buckholz
Review by Rachel White
Entire contents are copyright © 2015 Rachel White. All rights reserved.
There is lots of flying going on this summer, it seems. My last review was for The Tempest in Central Park; this time, I got to see Derby Dinner’s production of the musical Peter Pan. ZFX was involved in both productions. The magic of flight on stage never gets old, even when you can see the strings.
I haven’t seen this play since I was a child, and have no memory of watching the Broadway musical version, but I must have seen the Mary Martin version some time long ago, because I forgot but recognized the words to every song. Derby Dinner presents the ode to childhood adventure and growing up in a way that is clean but not so packaged that it loses its poignant emotional undertow, the thing that keeps it alive after so many years.
The story begins, of course, in the house of the Darlings; the actors have a chemistry and charm that makes them feel like a family. Sara Elizabeth King plays Mrs. Darling, and Jim Hesselman is her husband, Mr. Darling. Ms. King is filling in for Sara Gettlefinger, and it appears that in the original conception of the production, Gettlefinger would have played Captain Hook as well. This would have drawn a strong connection between the play world of the Darlings and the world of Neverland, which may or may not be an invention. Mrs. Darling is a playful mother in spite of her gentility, and it’s nice to see two parents on stage who admire their young children so much. Madeline Perrone plays Wendy, the girl who is on the brink of adulthood but not ready to leave for it just yet. Perrone effectively straddles this line; her Wendy is playful and yet innocent of the fact that her play is becoming more and more a practice at womanhood. Peter is played by Jon Hacker, who carries the piece with strong performances of songs such as “I’ve Gotta Crow” and “I Won’t Grow Up.” His youthful bravado balances Wendy’s sweet-natured innocence.
The pirates are as ragtag as the lost boys, with Paul Kerr as the self-consciously evil Captain Hook. Some of the second act scenes between the lost boys and the pirates dragged a bit, when tension was needed most. The “Ugg-a-Wugg” number, although theatrical, was a little discordant with modern 21st century perspectives. I hesitate to say this, because what is most rich about the piece is that it builds such a world where the things we play in childhood come to life; in that sense, the play is poorer without any one element, be it its Indians, its pirates, or its fairies. Nevertheless, it is the warmth of the actors and straightforward directing in this production that really sell it.
June 24 – August 9, 2015
Derby Dinner Playhouse
525 Marriott Drive
Clarksville, IN 47129
[box_light]Rachel White received her MFA in playwriting from the New School for Drama, and her BA in Englishand Dramatic from Centre College. Her plays have been produced in New York at The New School, the Midtown International Theatre Festival and the American Globe Theater, in Los Angeles at Moving Arts Productions and the Ensemble Studio Theatre-LA. In Louisville, she has had productions at the Slant Culture Theatre Festival, the Tim Faulkner Gallery, and Finnigan Productions. She is a recipient of the Litwin Foundation Fellowship in Playwriting, and was recently a semi-finalist in the Labute New Theater Festival. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, and the Playwrights Gallery in New York.[/box_light]