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Volume 41 Issue 11 • July 21-27, 2011
now in our 41th season
 

Peter Pan - The Magic is Back

by Sarah Teach

Peter PanIf I could start this off with a traditional Disney movie commercial, I would.  “Experience the enchantment,” that deep masculine voice would say, then he’d continue with exaggerated emphasis: “…Relive the delight, and bring back the excitement of this time-honored classic story…”  For many people, Nantucket itself is not unlike a fairy tale; it’s a place for travelers to jettison the worries of adult life.  At some point during the never-ending bill payments and concerns, you’ve undoubtedly dreamed of a haven beyond a fleeting vacation.  But think from your heart for a moment.  You do in fact recall the transcendent tale that feeds this fantasy.  You still know the frolicking boy who never once worried about a mortgage or a medical bill.  The magic of “Peter Pan” is back on ACK.  And I can’t stop dreaming about it, more than a week after seeing the show. 

Theatre Workshop of Nantucket has once again taken on the challenge of a full-scale musical that merges the talents of kids, teens, and adults.  Veteran “Peter Pan” Director Laura Gallagher Byrne has created a radically interaction-based production, and not a child in the audience can escape its spell. Even as an adult, my long-lost inner child happily sloughs off its grownup shadow, leaping out the window in a flurry of fairy dust and enchantment. I t’s uncanny how the presence of children seems to bring out the best kinds of silliness in grownups, both on the stage and in the audience.  But even with such a goofy group, TWN cuts no corners in regaling our community with quality theater; Peter and the children really do fly!  The Workshop hired Flying by Foy, the entertainment industry’s long-time choice company, which has been responsible for the flying effects in dozens of Broadway shows, and number of big-name Hollywood productions.  Many small theaters cannot swing something so elaborate, but TWN’s “Peter Pan” brings first-rate theater right to our doorstep.

The magic takes flight right away, as the audience is whisked away into the Darling children’s bedroom.  The motherly Mrs. Darling adopts the entire audience as Jessica Goodenough Heuser lullabies us in her angelic voice.  Ann Bissinger is hilariously enjoyable as the Darling children’s lovable canine caretaker, Nana, and dons an amusing costume designed by Joe Zito.  Nantucket native Vince Veilleux plays the beautifully youthful Peter, making every little girl (and 20-something-year-old theater critic) in the audience fall in love with him as she wonders, “Did he just smile at me?  Oh yes, he did!  He did!”  Donald Dallaire is phenomenal in dual roles.  He is a delightfully wicked Captain Hook; then in a mere backstage moment, he’s the inconsolably grown up Mr. Darling.  As Captain Hook, this cunningly talented thespian is too comical to be frightening, so don’t hesitate to bring even your youngest children.  With Dallaire’s incredible voice, Captain Hook takes the show by storm. 

The lone foe in Neverland is adulthood; personified by Captain Hook’s bumbling brood of pirates.  They are all riotously funny, but my favorite is Cecco.  I promise that you will laugh, laugh some more, and won’t be able to stop laughing if you keep an eye on Bradford Garrison’s ultra-expressive faces.  Exotic beauty Vanessa Calantropo is unrestrained in her theatrical abilities.  She will have you believing that she is the regal but primitive Princess Tiger Lily.  Her voice is ethereal yet strong and dramatic, with flawless intonation.  Joined by the voices of mesmerizing mermaids, her siren song provides live musical ambrosia that captivates the entire audience. 

Best of all are the children who grace the stage with their honest presence and effortless innocence.  Kids as young as five have invested extraordinary effort in memorization, and their extensive practice is evident. (Admittedly, you might occasionally catch a Little Lost Boy with a finger up his nose or a Little Flower dancing a beat behind everybody else, but of course these quirks really just make them all the more adorable to watch.)

TWN clearly recognizes that the theater is no place for a kid to grow bored!  Peter’s teeny sidekick, Tinkerbell, has a huge personality, and the kids in the audience are supremely delighted by her presence between acts.  In addition to those brief breaks, there is a 10-minute intermission halfway through the show that allows everyone to take a quick bathroom break and stretch their legs.  For families that tend to have difficulty attending sit-down events, TWN has set up something special:  the July 27 show is complimentary to all children on the autism spectrum, along with their families.  The entire evening will be catered to kids who might otherwise have a tough time enjoying a play.  The whole production is centered on the magic of children’s imaginations; letting your own children experience it live on Nantucket is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.  “Peter Pan” is a chance for kids to fall in love with theater!  Scarcely does a play hit the stage that can be enjoyed equally by the whole family—don’t let this rare opportunity pass you by.

Peter tells Wendy that Neverland is “A place with hardly any space between one adventure and another.”  Both enchanting and adventuresome, this show will whirl you away to the world that faded into fog once you grew up: a state where dreams are easily unearthed.  By the time the show is over, the two young brothers sitting in front of me are talking fairy dust and planning for their upcoming journey to Neverland. 

Of all TWN’s productions this season, you must see “Peter Pan.”  It plays until July 30; every Wednesday through Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and every Sunday at 3 p.m.  Tickets are $25 at www.TheatreWorkshop.com.  How do you get there?  After heading to Bennett Hall at 62 Centre Street, it’s the “second star to the right and straight on 'til morning.”

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