Be transported to the fantasy world of “PETER PAN”

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Christ Episcopal Church in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, which has a Music & Arts Ministry, has become a springtime destination for lovers of musical theatre during the past six years. Last year, the church delighted patrons by staging Jason Woods’ fabulous original production of “St. George and the Dragon.” Mr. Woods is back this year with his adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play, “Peter Pan,” a beloved classic which is now in public domain.

While “The Sound of Music” was initially planned as the 2016 production, a new choice was required due to unexpected issues with obtaining the rights. And as with “St. George,” Woods is again totally involved in this show as writer, director, composer, and scenic designer; the creative aspects were finalized with very long work days during a very short time frame. The play, which opened on April 13, will be on stage through April 24, 2016.

Broadway had its own musical version of “Peter Pan,” which debuted in 1984; it played in Jacksonville with the Artist Series, and was also staged by the FSCJ Summer Musical Experience in 2012. While the delightful and entertaining version by Mister Woods does not have any fancy flying (the church’s theatre space has a large stage and comfortable seating, but doesn’t include a trapeze), it captures the adventure and essence of the story and is a musical that transports the audience into a fantasy world which could exist only in the theatre.

PAN05Yes, the very handsome Peter Pan played with style and gusto by Douglas Anderson sophomore Blake McClure is still the boy who refuses to grow up. Aided by his sidekick, the frolicsome but possessive Tinkerbell (Madelyn Wells), he takes the Darling children off to Neverland, inhabited by Lost Boys Jack Niemczyk, Charlie Pennella, Kirstopher Stam, and Justice Klingler. They soon encounter a large contingent of Indians, including the lovely and lithe Tiger Lily (Lauren Albert), followed by sixteen colorful Indian Scout dancers, portrayed by Bayden Armstrong, Emma Bailey, Chanel Boll, Brigitta Goliber, Megan Landis, Halle Morrow, Bridgett Wells, and Ava Zilahy. In the roles of Indian Tribe members were Eric Yarham, Julia Auchter, Shari Lin Muldoon, Mario Noto, Maya Pinfield, Iaan Quintanilla and Kelly Stam.

PeterPan_JoshTaylor_CaptHook_4047_CMYKEight hilarious pirates are led by Captain Hook, very much a leading character, who is played by Joshua Taylor. In a compelling performance, he brilliantly rages, bargains, and stonewalls his nemesis Peter Pan, who was responsible for Hook losing his hand to a menacing crocodile. Mr. Smee (Myles Edward Hughes), as Hook’s ever-present and very funny sidekick, carries around a book filled with insulting phrases, which Hook frequently consults. The peerless pirates were portrayed by Juan Ocharan, Meganne Johnson, Alec Hadden, Brian Johnson, Jimmy Pennella, and Boston Woods.

PAN04You can’t have a fun musical without lovely ladies and Mr. Woods has ordered up about a dozen Mermaids, led by Mermaid Moll (Sadie La Manna), who portrays beauty, wit, and power in song. Mermaid Moll is dressed in a fantastic outfit complete with tail, and the rest of the gorgeous gals are also dressed in mermaid garb that is so dazzling and bright you might want your sun glasses handy. Playing the dancing and singing lovelies of the sea were Julie Buckley, Kayrn Carroll, Rosalie Davies, Vickie Dell, Ashley Harper, Pam Joiner, Jeanie Lijoi, Daniell Moore, Linda Muldoon, and Patrice Kaye Sheedy.

PAN06The show opens with members of the Darling family at their home in London; parents John and Mary (Eric Yarham and Kirsten Yates), and their children John (William Chase), Michael (Casey Carroll), and Wendy (Summer Grace Grable). Wendy, the oldest and most adventuresome, urges her siblings to travel with her to Neverland, where, in a sensitive portrayal by Grable, she agrees to become the mother of the Lost Boys.

One additional character is a also a family member, who doesn’t have a single line of dialogue but is bark perfect as she (Hannah Woods) manipulates the oversized dog Nana, who is the best constructed puppet canine we have even seen on stage. If this were Broadway, Nana would win a Tony.

The final characters who appear years later near the end of the play are Wendy as an adult (Elizabeth Bricknell) and Jane (Katherine Chase), her young daughter.

If you saw Woods’ play about Saint George, you are familiar with his most famous character, the dragon he designed; he was also the voice of the fire breather during performances. Mr. Woods and his wife Krystal have constructed another monster for Peter Pan, a large green crocodile that is thirty feet long. The talents of puppeteers Tyler Lewis and Cameron Pfahler bring the spectacular croc to life, as he chases Captain Hook during a couple of dramatic episodes.

This play is filled with new songs, all composed by Jason Woods. He has used tremendous care and theatrical savvy by combining catchy music with lyrics that range from humorous to poignant. It is difficult to imagine a more persuasively balanced ensemble and the direction provided by Woods holds all elements of the production together with consummate skill.

The production team included: Jason Woods (Director, Composer, Playwright), Rachel Root (Executive Producer, Vocal Coach) , Barbara Roberts (Producer), Ashley Yarham (Choreography) Lora Christl (Stage Manager) Matt Moore (Lighting & Special Effects), Krystal Woods (House Manager), Pam Joiner (Costume Coordinator) and Heather Goliber (Props).

This play is a delight for all ages. All seats are reserved and cost $20.00. Tickets can be ordered online at readyforneverland.ticketleap.com or purchased at the door with cash or a credit card.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

october, 2021

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