Produced by: Palo Alto Players
Directed and choreographed by: Janie Scott
Music direction by: Lauren Bevilacqua
Featuring: Corrie Farbstein, Brittney Mignano, Amay Goel, Billy Hutton, Breanna van Gastel, Eddie Standifer III, Gwyneth Price, John Bisceglie, Zendrex Llado, Leandro Bilello, Michael Cai, Grace Hutton, Logan Montgomery, Justin Lewis, Shawn Bender, David Murphy, Victor Velasquez, Robert Vetter, March Grossman, Oklys Pimentel, Catrina Contini, Rachel Abbey, Alex Cox, Tiffany Jianto, Joshua Lau, Michael Saenz
Running time: 145 minutes, one intermission
When: November 3 through November 19, 2017
Where: Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
Tickets: $25-$55 (discounts available); call 650-329-0891 or visit www.paplayers.org
for a magical 'Peter Pan'
of cleverly staged production at Palo Alto Players
A terrific cast, excellent direction and choreography by the great Janie Scott, and a very creative set by Patrick Klein breathe new life into "Peter Pan," the 1954 musical that never wants to grow up.
But grow older it has, although Scott has made an effort to trim its paunch and rub some hair dye into its gray hair for the delightfully fun production now on stage for Palo Alto Players.
The show has a bad start: A completely old-fashioned and unnecessary overture, while all the audience gets to see is a very weak projection of the title, "Peter Pan," on the curtain. (An even worse, and darker, projection closes the show.) Really, dump the overture, fix or replace the projections.
When the curtain finally opens, we are in the Darling family nursery, a very attractive and expansive set by Klein, who is artistic director at Palo Alto Players.
We meet Brittney Mignano, who does an excellent job of being Wendy Darling, who must be both a child and, eventually, the mother who will care for the Lost Boys. And Amay Goel as John and Billy Hutton Michael, the Darling boys who are destined for a magical journey.
Gwyneth Price is a lovely Mrs. Darling, who gets to lead the children in singing "Tender Shepherd," a nice lullaby. (She also designed hair and makeup for this show; that is her offstage profession.)
John Bisceglie gets some early laughs at Mr. Darling (in his seventh outing in this role), and Eddie Standifer III get laughs and a round of applause as Nana, the big dog.
But when Corrie Farbstein flies in through the huge windows, this show comes brightly alive, as if the entire Lucie Stern Theatre had been sprinkled with fairy dust.
Farbstein is fabulous in the role. It can’t be overstated how good she is. Her voice is powerful and impressive — the last time I heard trills that good in this theater, it was Christina Major, singing "Norma" for West Bay Opera. (Peter Pan trills? Who knew?)
And, in addition to being a fully committed actor who brings the perennial boy to life, she is a top-shape athlete who makes the flying look as natural as breathing, and commands the stage in sword fights. And, she has mad comic skills.
She’s a star, this one.
My favorite tune? "I Gotta Crow," when Peter Pan hooks his thumbs in his armpits and crows like a big green bird. Farbstein makes it crazy fun. When we get to Neverland, Bisceglie is very funny as Captain Hook, sporting a huge golden hook on his left arm, and surrounded by a motley crew of pirates, including Shawn Bender as Smee and David Murphy as Cecco.
The dialogue for the Lost Boys introduction is very funny. They are Lost Boys because they fell out of their carriages when they were babies. There are no lost girls, because girls are too clever to fall out of their carriages. Duh!
The Neverland sets are a hoot. I called them "steampunk," with lots of giant gears and strange machines with arms (which come into play later), but several Palo Alto Players executives warned me that Scott doesn’t like to call it steampunk. It’s to be called (if I remember correctly), "neo-Victorian fantasy."
Whatever it’s called, it’s fun, and plays a role in the choreography. Scott’s choreography for this show is endlessly fun and creative.
And, oh boy, do we all love the Warriors, led by Catrina Contini as Tiger Lily! Tiger Lily is beautiful, dances like a dream and is totally courageous in battle. Contini got a very good round of applause at the curtain.
You know the story, right? Peter Pan goes to the Darling home to find his shadow, which had wandered off. Mrs. Darling rolled it up and put it in a drawer, and Mr. Darling thinks he should sell it to a museum.
But Peter Pan shows up when everybody’s asleep, and with the help of fairy sprite TinkerBell (a bouncy bit of light), he finds it. Wendy wakes up and sews it back on him. Ouch.
Peter explains that he had run away from home on the day he was born because he didn’t want to have to become a grown-up. He talks Wendy into coming to Neverland with him, to be mother to the Lost Boys, and to finish telling the story of "Cinderella."
Her two brothers make the flight with them, and we are off to many adventures in Neverland.
Great fun in Neverland, by the way, is the crocodile who bit off Hook’s hand, and who wants to eat the rest of him. I was told that two different people play the crocodile, but neither was identified in the program, and both were wonderful for their reptilian crawl across the stage.
I brought along an expert panel of children to help me review this show — ages 9, 6, and 2 and a half, and they all loved it.
The 2-and-a-half-year-old was crying and pointing at the stage after the curtain. She wanted the show to go on. She kept crying and pointing back at the theater all the way out to the car, at which point she fell asleep for the ride home.
Email John Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org