“So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land!” – J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan: Fairy Tales
Tackling any adaptation of a classic can be quite the intimidating feat, especially one that is as immortal as Peter Pan. Fortunately, the UNCG Theatre & NC Theatre for Young People production has all the necessary elements for the timeless adventure to enchant: thrilling sword flights, a tick-tocking crocodile, fairies, flying lessons, and, yes, even a bit of pixie dust!
Janet Allard’s adaptation preserves the spirit of the original story by J.M. Barrie, which has seen several different interpretations since its 1904 release. It has gained worldwide success over the years with various plays, books, musical productions, and films. Allard’s version delivers the premise purely, and in a way that feels tailored perfectly for younger theatergoers.
Peter Pan tells the story of a flying boy with a disdain for growing older as he embarks upon adventures on the island of Never Never Land with his tribe of lost boys. Along the way, his mischievous nature leads him to meet a young girl named Wendy and her two brothers. Peter Pan, Wendy, and all the boys go on to use their magic of being kids to defeat the villainous one-armed pirate Captain Hook.
It was wonderful to see a theatrical space, such as the accommodating Taylor Theatre, used as effectively as it is in this production. There were no missed transcendent opportunities where scenic design and staging are concerned. Tom Barker (set design) has created tangibility for a world born of and governed by a child’s limitless imagination. Each of the three settings of the play requires individual care. Many components of the scenery resourcefully lent themselves to be recycled in various scenes without losing distinctiveness. Whether it was the magnitude of the well-constructed nursery window that serves as a portal for make-believe, the illustrious jungle-like home of the lost boys with its many apparatuses for climbing and hiding, or the pirate ship deck fully equipped with a shooting canon and plank walk, the atmosphere consistently provided life to the stage. Baker’s ability to generate a multi-dimensional lushness to every scene is to be applauded.
Director Rachel Briley echoed the notion of fully utilizing the space with clever choices that connected the audience with the world of the play. The orchestra pit served numerous purposes throughout the show, particularly becoming the ocean where waves crash and mermaids dwell. Platforms along the sides of the audience continued the action on the stage, most notably highlighting a larger-scaled Tinker Bell, played with sass by Samantha Leary.
Adam Kampouris as Peter Pan brought a boyish charm to the iconic role with energetic acrobatics and soaring flying abilities. Cassie McHale was sensible and nurturing as Wendy. She was able to bring intellect and maturity to the role without losing childlike believability. Skyler Brown added humor to the role of Hook, yet was still menacing enough to be seen as a real threat to Never Never Land.
This production may not be ideal for adult audiences, as it demands continuous suspension of disbelief, yet sometimes theatre is most enjoyable when viewed from a child’s gaze. The innocence of youth allows flight to exist unobstructed by harnesses and wires, while beloved creatures are free to paw and roam with invisible puppeteers. That, however, is precisely the magic that has kept Peter Pan alive and soaring into nursery windows for over a hundred years. The NC Theatre for Young People’s production is a joyous event for anyone that needs a moment to not have to grow up.
Peter Pan continues through Sunday, November 17. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.