Flights of Fancy in First Stage “Peter Pan and Wendy”
Peter Pan and the rest of the children will fly, but not via cables and rigging in the First Stage Children’s Theater Peter Pan and Wendy, which opens Friday (Oct. 15). Black-clad puppeteers, out of Japanese Bunraku theater tradition, will lift and zoom them from a fanciful London to Neverland.
In a rehearsal hall at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, artistic director Jeff Frank climbed through a portable window frame to show how it’s done. After Frank “flies” out of the window, he reaches behind a curtain and produces a small light hanging from the end of a long black pole. The shapely plastic lamp would be Tinkerbell. Two types of LED lights can flash and alternate to make the fairy “speak.” As airy as the fairy might appear, it takes some strength to manipulate her at the end of a long pole. Adult and teen puppeteers will work even harder to control the 15-foot long alligator that threatens Captain Hook.
Actors and puppets will work against a black London skyline that eventually transforms into Neverland’s pirate ship. Frank imagined and designer Sarah Hunt-Frank realized these grand ideas for the decór, which can be moved about to change not only locale but also perspective.
The set is not an end in itself. It reinforces the play’s emotional content. It resonates with Frank’s ideas about idea of childhood vs. adulthood, night vs. day, magic vs. reality, and innocence vs. responsibility, ideas he is transferring to his adult and child actors. Peter Pan and Wendy not only have an adventure, they pass through several definitions of love as they struggle with their own feelings for each other. The sophisticated emotions in this script — Doug Rand’s adaption from the J.M. Barrie’s novel, with a few adjustments to meet a 70-minute length — should appeal to adults as well as children.
Frank cast Peter and Wendy with age appropriate actors, an unusual practice among children’s theater companies. Frank believes this fresh approach stretches young actors and adds believability to the show. Real life adolescents, though they won’t deal with pirates, flying or lost boys, should identify with Peter and Wendy’s experience. It’s hard to replace the wonders of childhood with the responsibilities of maturity, which explains the appeal of Neverland.
Peter Pan and Wendy runs through Nov. 14 at Marcus Center Todd Wehr Theater. Tickets are $11.50 to $25.50; call the Marcus Center box office, 414-273-7206, or visit the First Stage website.
Cast and Credits
The adult actor cast: Todd Denning, Mr. Darling/Captain Hook; Alison Mary Forbes, Mrs. Darling/Ensemble); James Fletcher, Starkey/Ensemble; Drew Brhel, Smee/Ensemble; Tim Linn, Pirate 1/Ensemble; and Ron Lee, Pirate 2/Ensemble.
Youth roles are double-cast.
The “Light” cast: Emma Bronson, Ensemble 4; Mitch Bultman, Ensemble 6; Michelle Desien, Ensemble 1; Julian Green, Curly; Emily Harris, Young Wendy; Nick Jerred, Nibs; Eliza Lore, Ensemble 5; Emilie Lozier, Ensemble 3; Dylan McCool, as Pockets; Conner Mills, Michael; Anna Reisterer, Twin 1; Emily Reisterer, Twin 2; Katie Shelledy, Wendy; Henry Shotwell, John; Sam Skogstad, Peter; Matt Steege, Ensemble 7; Sean Voves, as Tootles; Mathew Wade, Bumbershot; Holland White, Ensemble 2; Joey Wurm, Ensemble 8; Arjuna Yelanjian, Slightly; and Arianna Imperl, Ensemble 9.
The “Shadow” cast: Maura Atwood Ensemble 3; Gena Davis, Ensemble 4; Balen Essak, John; Lawrence Hapeman, Michael; Richard Heim, Nibs; Jordan Horne, Peter; Seth Horne, Slightly; Max Huenink, Bumbershoot; Paris Karstedt, Wendy; Emmie Mandel, Ensemble 9; Piper Meisinger, Ensemble 5; Luke Mizer, Ensemble 6; Sebastian Palmer, Ensemble 8; Ashley Patin, Ensemble 1; Georgina Pink, Young Wendy; Gavin Rangel, Tootles; DeAndre Sabatino, Curly; Sydney Salter, Twin 1; Alexandra Salter, Twin 2; Corwin Weeks, Ensemble 7; Holland White, Ensemble 2; and David Zetley, Pockets.
Artistic Staff : Todd Denning, Fight Choreographer; Kelly Anderson, Choreographer; Sarah Hunt-Frank, Scenic Designer; Brandon Kirkham, Costume Designer; Laura Mroczkowski, Lighting Designer; Jason Knox, Sound Designer; Heather Sanderson, Dialect Coach; Michele Hand, Stage Manager; and Jolyn Sherman, Assistant Stage Manager.