Peter Pan is one of the most beloved characters in all of English literature. He was created in 1904 by J. M. Barrie for the play, "Peter and Wendy," and for the novel that followed in 1911.
The character was immortalized by Mary Martin in the 1954 Tony Award winning Broadway musical which also starred Cyril Richard as Captain Hook. It has since become a perennial touring favorite starring Sandy Duncan and gymnast Cathy Rigby.
While the Ozark Actors Theatre 26th season opener is not the Broadway version by Comden, Green and Styne and directed by Jerome Robbins, it is nevertheless a delightful retelling of this adventurous tale about a young boy who can fly and the charmingly innocent Wendy Darling and brothers Michael and John.
This delightful adaptation comes from British playwright Piers Chater Robinson who wrote the musical in 1985. It has since become well known in London's West End and much appreciated all over the globe.
A "magical" production, it is a must-see for all Rolla-area families. Children of all ages will feel the effects of the fairy dust as these talented actors, dancers, musicians and technical theater practitioners bring this story alive on the Ozark Actors Theatre stage.
Imaginatively staged and directed by the very talented Jason Canon, this delightful rendition has all the original characters, which are well acted by Equity professionals, as well as by equally talented local actors.
A special mention should be given to outstanding performances given by Elizabeth Birkenmeier who plays the eternally young Peter Pan, Natalie Sannes as the winsome Wendy, Blane Pressler as a bumbling Captain Hook (as well as Mr. Darling) and Sabra Sellers as Smee, Hook's preposterously silly side-kick who also plays Mrs. Darling.
With strong performances also turned in by a fabulous supporting cast, Kelly Brown (John Darling), Zach Phelps (Michael Darling), Rachel Collins (Tinkerbell), Hannah Bagnall (Tiger Lily), Josh Riefer (Nana and Crocodile) and Benjamin K. Wegner (Starkey).
A "shout-out," should also be given to a cast of talented youngsters who danced and sang their hearts out to a very appreciative opening night audience.
The success of the show is due in no small part to the scenic, sound and costume designers. Kevin Shaw, who returns to OAT for a second season has created a very functional and colorful set with sound design by Katherine Guzzi.
Sound is a very important part of this production, but I don't want to give away any "stinky" secrets. If you see the show, and you should, you'll hear what I mean.
Laura Cook's costumes are wonderful. I especially enjoyed the costume for Nana, the Darling's lovable pooch as well as the one worn by the Crocodile. Very imaginative!
Kudos should be given to Gessell Frisbee and Alicia Smith for the choreography. With so many young and inexperienced dancers, they managed to teach these kids to move with confidence and joy.
Page 2 of 2 - And the joy of storytelling is what the evening was all about. The joy and enthusiasm of this cast of 33 was infectious. The audience responded with equal enthusiasm.
Hopefully, area parents will make every effort to bring their children to this production. While it does run nearly two and one-half hours, I suspect that most kids will be on the edge of their seats with wide-eyed wonderment.
A bit of advice, read the story to your kids before you bring them. I believe this will enrich their theater experience. They will be familiar with the story, the characters and will be delighted as they see them come to life on stage.
Ozark Actors Theatre's "Peter Pan" runs this Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23, and Thursday through Sunday, June 27-30.
For ticket information, go to ozarkactorstheatre.org or call 573-364-9523. The box office is open from 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday as well as two hours prior to every performance, but closed during matinees.