Joan Rittberg
Arts & Culture Editor

The Fulton Theatre’s exuberant production of Peter Panis a grand and incredibly entertaining take on this classic tale. The story is still the same as the audience follows the boy who won’t grow up (Joseph Frederick Allen) as he goes on an adventure with the darling children, Wendy (Carolyn Anne Miller), John (George Boben Fenimore) & Michael (Noah Woods) to Neverland where they meet colorful characters such as the deliciously dastardly Captain Hook (Curt Dale Clark) and Captain Smee (Andrew Kindig). This production brings a rousing take on this fantastical tale.

         Allen is a wondrous Peter Pan. With boundless energy, the actor captures the childlike exuberance of this classic character so well. Onstage for most of the show, Allen’s stamina throughout is particularly impressive as he belts, flies and prances across the stage. His youthful vocals fare particularly well giving a fresh take to iconic tunes such as “Never Never Land.”  He also gives the boy who won’t grow up some depth as he grows more of an emotional bond with Wendy in the show’s second half. Allen’s Peter leads the company triumphantly and commands the stage throughout. 

         Clark is deliciously campy as Captain Hook. With a literal twirl of the mustache, Clark’s Hook is one of great sass and silliness as he moves on the stage with an over the top flair. He also has strong chemistry with Andrew Kindig’s Smee as their mismatched comedic energy makes for an enjoyable duo. Clark also excels in numbers such as “Captain Hook’s Waltz” with an appropriately hammy energy. Clark takes on the role of Mr. Darling and brings a serious manner to that role which contrasts quite well to his Hook character. Clark also has great fun with Allen’s Pan in their climatic fight scene near the end of the show. Clark’s dual roles of Hook and Mr. Darling manage to strike the perfect balance of focused performances with the former performed with scenery chewing panache. 

         Carolyn Anne Miller is very believable and gives a warm presence to the character of Wendy Darling. The actress captures the childlike innocence of Wendy. She also fleshes out the characters’ arc as she becomes more mature taking care of the lost boys, her brothers and even sometimes Peter himself. The actress in this role keeps the show grounded and provides tenderness to ballads such as “Distant Melody”.  Miller’s Wendy is young and hopeful yet also has a grace that makes the character instantly loveable. 

         Other standouts in the cast include Katie Sina as Mrs. Darling whose maturity gives insight to the woman that Wendy grows into, the ensemble of Lost Boys who bring a burst of energy into the production, and Fenimore and Woods who are wonderfully charming as John and Michael Darling. This entire cast brings so much energy and heart to this magical production. 

         Marc Robin’s direction is simply inspired with this production. Some of his choices such as casting a male Peter Pan in a role traditionally played by a woman brings a fresh energy to the show. Robin also manages to seamlessly bring all the flying and spectacle that audiences expect in a production of Peter Pan, yet he is not afraid to slow the story down for moments of heart and character building such as in the song “Distant Melody.” 

Where Robin particularly excels in this production is in his choreography with Buddy Reeder. Robin is very smart in keeping the movement throughout the show with fast paced transitions between scenes and having a constant sense of momentum. A choreographic highlight was “Tiger Lily’s Dance.” This extended sequence has the ensemble grandly dancing in an epic ballet sequel number that has an elegance from the synchronization of the ensemble who throw all of their energy into this wonder of a sequence.  Robin  and Reeder reach their height as choreographers in this production with the buoyant and show stopping, act one closer, “I Won’t Grow Up.” Robin’s and Reeder make a very smart choice in this number to incorporate childhood games and activities such as going down slides and bouncing on pogo sticks that bring an infectiously childlike energy to this number. Robin and Reeder build this song to such an enthusiastic high that it truly stops the show. Their work here is simply inspired as they bring a sense of whimsy and wonderment while also grounding the story with maturity.

         The same can be said for the set and lighting design by Robert Andrew Kovach and Paul Black. The physical production starts out more realistic with a traditional English nursery complete with period lighting and even a doghouse for Nanna. Once the characters enter Neverland, the characters and audience are treated to a myriad of bright colors with bright pinks and greens for the Neverland shore. The pirate ship that enters in the show’s second half is also particularly impressive complete with a deck and sails. The lighting by Black also has this contrast between the real world and Neverland with gorgeous blues for the nursery scenes then more playful light red, yellows and bright spotlights for Neverland. A neat lighting effect throughout is a green laser light to represent Tinker Bell. This effect is particularly effective as the laser light goes past the proscenium. The bright sets and lights ignites the imagination of the audience and really brings them into this world. 

         Special mention must be given to the delightful prop design by Katelin Walsko. Walsko’s creative designs for the dog Nanna and the crocodile which slithers across the stage elicits gasps of excitement and stuns. The costume and wig and makeup design by Anthony Lascoskie Jr. is lovely bringing bright colors of green to Peter Pan’s costumes and vibrant reds for Hooks coats that feel right out of a storybook. The only costume piece that doesn’t succeed as highly are the Native American men ensemble pieces which have the men in very short shorts that are a bit unflattering. The sound design by Josh Allamon is particularly crisp and clear with easily understood lyrics and dialogue and some delightful ringing sound effects to represent the character of Tinkerbell. The band is also well heard under strong music direction by Ben Macnobe. The creative elements are equally very strong and help greatly in transporting the audience to Neverland.

         With transporting creative designs, confident and kinetic direction by Marc Robin and frenetically energetic choreography by Marc Robin and Buddy Reeder, and a strong company of actors grounding the whimsy, this is a production of Peter Panthat is a festive piece of entertainment that is not only perfect for all ages, but is performed and made with creativity and heart.  This is a show that speaks to the child within us all.