Creative Cauldron at ArtSpace presents Peter Pan and Wendy, an artsy adaptation of a beloved classic. ArtSpace’s Our Learning Theater program brings together a group of 35 child actors for this project, with ages ranging from 6-13, and Laura Connors Hull (miraculously) manages to direct the entire brood efficiently and effectively. If this wasn’t ambitious enough, the show is completely original, with a lovely musical score written by Matt Conner and orchestrated by Gabe Mangiante. Oh, and don’t let me forget the puppets! It’s a jam-packed production, and I enjoyed every second of it!
Scenic Designer Margie Jervis divides the stage into three settings, all against a star-lit sky. A curvy slide mimics the plank of a ship, a miniaturized nursery with large, open windows is used as a stage for puppetry, and a group of boulders make up a mermaid’s lagoon. Lighting Designer Zachary A. Dalton uses soft blues and greens against a backdrop of stars to complete the atmosphere. Rod puppets are used while the action of the story is outside of Neverland, and are designed by Margie Jervis to match the characters, for whom she has also designed the costumes. Flowy capes that match the dark blue backdrop are worn by a group of “stars”, with each one holding their own light. Peter Pan wears a cap and vest stitched with leaves, while Wendy and her brothers wear nightgowns. The Lost Boys are patched and dirty, and the pirates colorful and accessorized, but the most eye-catching costumes are the glittery mermaids (who were downright adorable) and the large crocodile, a costume that took two people to wear!
Each actor is responsible for his/her own puppet character, and the show begins just as that…a puppet show. Feeling neglected and ignored, Mr. Darling (E. Augustus Knapp) is jealous of all the attention that his children’s live-in dog and caregiver Nana (Emma Rollins) gets from his family, so he banishes her to her outside dog house. With her absence, Peter Pan (Dani Stoller) visits the nursery to collect his shadow, which he had left there previously. As Wendy (Lauren Buford) helps him sew his shadow back on, he convinces her and her brothers Michael (Olivia Laurine) and John (Max Belmar) to fly away to Neverland with him, so that he and the Lost Boys can finally have a mother. With that, the puppets take off into the night, on their way to an adventure (and to be replaced by the actors), singing a song called “Neverland.” The incorporation of puppetry adds another level of depth and interest to the show, as well as another artistic learning opportunity for the young cast.
Once in Neverland, Wendy is introduced to her new “children” – the Lost Boys, a wild but sweet group of boys who love her immediately and build her a home in the sweet song, “Pretty House.” Together, they embark on a number of adventures; socializing with a group of playful mermaids, rescuing an Indian princess, and encounters with the notorious Captain Hook (E. Augustus Knapp) and his silly, sword-wielding band of pirates who sing an energetic song called “The Pirate Life.” Hook is followed by a hungry crocodile (Emma Rollins), who steals the spotlight with her song “Clock in the Croc.” Other favorite musical numbers include “Neverbird,” a fun conversation between Peter Pan and a flamingo, and the interactive “Keep the Beat,” which encompasses the overall message of the show; never give up, especially on your imagination. Neverland is a place full of fun and adventure, where no one grows up…but is Wendy willing to take on such a life?
I’m completely in awe as to how Laura Connors Hull manages to pull off such a challenging project with so many young actors, and I am incredibly impressed!
Dani Stoller’s energetic portrayal of Peter Pan is fantastic, and she has a wonderful chemistry with the children, easily seen as they bounce off each other with seemingly little effort. While the show does run a little longer than your typical children’s show, the audience did not seem to grow restless. A young boy sitting behind me complained (loudly) for ten long minutes before the show started about how much he wanted a snack…but once the show began, he was immersed in what was happened on the stage. The only other peep I heard from him was a soft whisper to his mother, “I like this show. Thank you!” And I almost melted into my seat.
Ambitious and fun, with great music and a showcase of young talent, Peter Pan and Wendy is a blast! Catch a showing before they return to Neverland!
Running Time: Approximately one hour and forty-five minutes, without an intermission.
Matt Conner on ‘Peter Pan and Wendy’ at Creative Cauldron.