nytheatre.com review by Lynn Marie Macy
June 13, 2010
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie premiered at the turn of the last century and the story of the boy who wouldn't grow up has endured and inspired our imaginations for more than 100 years in many forms—books, films, animated features, and theatrical productions. The musical version by Mark Charlap (music) and Carolyn Leigh (lyrics), with additional music by Jule Style and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, first appeared on Broadway in 1954 and has been revived almost every generation since. The most recent Broadway production was in 1999. A new generation of children will now have an opportunity to visit Peter and Neverland at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey.
And what a wonderful adventure they will find there! A multi-talented cast, amazing scenery, lighting, and costumes, stunning choreography, a positively charming story and fabulous flying effects! Every child in the theatre was riveted to the stage throughout the performance and the adults present enjoyed themselves enormously as well. Indeed the cast was rewarded with a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of the show.
The top-notch ensemble is led by the wonderful Nancy Anderson as Peter Pan who had the audience enthralled from the moment of her first magical entrance flying through the Darling nursery window and landing in a shower of "fairy dust." But this Peter is no pixie! Anderson is more of a rough-and-tumble street urchin, tough and physical (I was inclined to believe he very well could have cut off Hook's hand and fed it to a crocodile). Vocally, Anderson is superb and beautifully renders all of Peter's numbers, but especially fine is the first act ballad "Neverland."
The Darling children delight as well, with Hayley Podschun as Wendy, Josh Pins as John, and Lewis Grosso as Michael (alternating with Jack Broderick); the adorable wide-eyed Grosso is particularly endearing. The scene in which Peter teaches them to fly is great fun and a notable highlight, thanks to the wonderful flying effects by ZFX Inc. and Paul Rubin.
Another major standout is Jessica Lee Goldyn as Tiger Lily. A bold, lively presence and an amazingly skilled dancer, she seems to have the ability to effortlessly fly through the air without the benefit of wires! Her number ("Ugg-A-Wugg") with Peter and the company in Act II is a show-stopping marvel thanks as well to the extraordinary choreography by Patti Colombo.
I can go no further without mentioning the inestimable Douglas Sills, who excels in the dual roles of Mr. Darling and Captain Hook. As Captain Hook, Sills creates the most delightful, evil, entertaining, conniving, hilarious, and sneering villain you are likely to see on stage. I can't think of anyone you'd love to hate more. His ease and charm draw you in immediately and his ability to ad-lib and play off the audience make for a great deal of spontaneous laughter. Sills, who made a splash on Broadway more than a decade ago as Percy Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel, is one of those amazing performers that you can never quite get enough of. Broadway writers and composers take note: you should be lining up to create projects especially for this extraordinary, versatile talent.
Director Mark S. Hoebee is to be congratulated for pulling together and overseeing all of the elements of this tremendous production. The scenic and lighting designs by John Iocovelli and F. Mitchell Dana respectively are stunningly beautiful to look at and, supported by the lovely costumes by Shigeru Yaji and Thom Heyer, create some breathtaking stage pictures. Hoebee's gathered ensemble, also key to the success of the show, is delightful as pirates, Indians, lost boys, and more. I also liked the director's conceit of creating an "international" group of characters. It is only a pity that the accents were so inconsistent. Had the production employed a dialect coach it would have knocked the show up one more notch to utter perfection.
If you do not have any children of your own, I suggest you borrow some so that you may vicariously experience the wonder of childhood imagination. But really you don't need an excuse make your way to Paper Mill Playhouse because I do not think you'll see a better production of this magical play, which really is something to "crow" about. But you had better make your plans quickly because these tickets will not last.