It’s not every day a boy comes flying through your window looking for his shadow, but Peter Pan (Michelle Coben) is no ordinary boy. Actually, in the Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s “Peter Pan,” as many before it, Pan is no boy whatsoever. However, in this review, Pan will be referred to in a masculine pronoun, even though Corben is female.
Wendy Darling (Jillian Ferguson) and her brothers Jonathan (Brecken Newton Farrell) and Michael (Benjamin Godley-Fisher) are preparing for bed, just as their parents (played by Katie Oxman and Tim Hartman) are preparing for a night on the town. Mrs. Darling, however, has a sense of trepidation about leaving the house, mostly because she believes she saw a boy hovering out the second story window. Mr. Darling scolds the dog, Nana (Rush Hodgin), and escorts her out of the children’s bedroom. The watchdog was the only thing keeping the elfin boy and his sidekick Tinkerbell out of their room.
Right after Wendy and her brothers are tucked into bed, Pan shows up to capture his wayward shadow. When Peter Pan flies into the Darling home for the first time, it’s a magical moment.
Peter and Wendy meet. It is a fateful turn of events for both of them. Wendy agrees to fly off with him to Never Land. Accompanied by her younger siblings Michael and John, who are best distinguished by their props, a top hat and teddy bear, respectively, the four prepare for their journey to Never Land (“Second star to the right, and straight on till morning.”)
After a sprinkling of pixie dust, you just need to think happy thoughts, and, before you know it, you’re flying! Flying! Even though the wire is fairly visible, it’s easy to believe in the magic, because, deep down, everyone wants to believe in the magic of Peter Pan.
Soon, we’re off to Never Land where we encounter mysterious mermaids, exotic Indians and an infamous pirate and his inept crew. The pirate, of course, is Captain Hook (Tim Hartman). Hook and his first officer Smee (Quinn Patrick Shannon) are aided by a ghastly group of scoundrels. Arrr, matey, this crew of pirates includes a Pittsburgh Steeler. Charlie Batch is one of Hook’s dastardly deckhands.
There are mermaids, pirates, Indians, dancing animals and fairies. Author and playwright J.M. Barrie threw everything into his classic story about a boy who doesn’t want to grow up. He pretty much stuck in every conceivable character from a child’s imagination. The 1954 musical version still holds up. It’s an exciting show with fun for the whole family. It appeals mostly to children and those adults who refuse to grow up (me!).
Coben is a perfect Peter Pan. She carries a large portion of the show deftly conveying Peter’s personality, with and charm.
Hartman is a delightful Hook. In the manner of the best one-handed pirate captains, he minces and chortles, preens and roars, chewing the scenery with muster. Shannon’s Smee is a great comedic foil to the craven captain.
Ferguson manages to keep up with both hero and villain. She’s a darling Wendy Darling.
With a few notable exceptions, it’s a very, very young cast. Don’t let them fool you. They are very talented kids.
The first scene drags a bit, until Pan shows up. Then, the show zips by.
Barrie’s classic story, even makes you cheer on the contemptuous fairy Tinkerbell, who nearly gets Wendy killed, but redeems herself by drinking poison meant for Peter. Tink is played by a trick of green laser light and a tinkling of the piano, but she is a visceral and vital part of the show. After drinking the aforementioned poison, Peter breaks the fourth wall and everyone is clapping along to save her life. It’s important to note, fairies only survive if you believe in them. I believe.
The costumes are exquisite thanks to Kim Brown of Spotlight Costumes. Tiger Lily (Victoria Buchtan) looked like a dancing sunset. The Indian chieftain and her Indians look particularly beautiful in their flowing polychromatic costumes, especially during Lisa Elliot’s finely crafted choreography.
With elegant costumes, excellent make-up (by Christopher Patrick), great singing and dancing, “Peter Pan” is fun for the whole family.
You don’t need much else to enjoy the show. After all, as the author and playwright J.M. Barrie once said, “All you need is faith, trust and a little bit of pixie dust.”
(“Peter Pan” runs through May 3 at the Byham Theater, 101 Sixth Avenue, Pittsburgh for more information, go to http://www.pittsburghmusicals.com)