Taking Flight: PETER PAN

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Based on the play by Sir J. M. Barrie
Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh
Music by: Morris “Moose” Charlap
Additional lyrics by Betty Comden & Adolph Green
Additional Music by Jule Styne
Directed by Bob Richard
Choreography by Diane Laurenson
Music direction by Peter Leigh-Nilsen

July 10 – July 22, 2018
NSMT
62 Dunham Road
Beverly, MA 01915
NSMT on Facebook

Review by Kate Lew Idlebrook

(Beverly, MA) Fairies, pirates, flying, and magic, all on an island without parents – Peter Pan, Sir J.M. Barrie’s adventure about the boy who doesn’t want to grow-up and the magical island that is his home
has it all. Capturing this magic on stage can be a challenge, but Carolyn Leigh and Morris
(Mosse) Charlap turn the classic into a wonderful and catchy musical, and the North Shore
Music Theatre’s production of this musical is a strong revival of this classic tale.

At the heart of the story is Peter Pan, the magically, alluring boy who pledges to never grow up.
Elena Ricardo shines in the role; when she sings to Wendy (Kate Fitzgerald) a song about the
magical Island she perfectly sets the stage for the action to follow. One of the best moments of
the production occurs early during Ricardo’s performance of “I Gotta Crow”; as Peter (Ricardo)
crows about his cleverness and dances with his shadow. A second dancer, dressed as his
shadow, joins him on stage and they have a lovely tête-à-tête.

The rest of the cast keeps up with Ricardo, with James Beaman’s depiction of Captain Hook
standing out among the crowd. He brings everything you’d expect of the villain – energy, evil
desire, and a lightness that keeps him from being too scary for the younger audience members.
The Darling children – Wendy (Kate Fitzgerald), John (Jake Ryan Flynn) and Michael (AJ Scott)
– also clearly enjoy their adventures.

In my family, it was a yearly tradition to watch the TV version of Peter Pan. We loved it, but for
one thing: the incredibly racist portrayal of the native settlers of Neverland, a group that were
clearly molded after a poor understanding of Native Americans. So, when I brought my 12-year-
old to this production, I anxiously waited to see how the North Shore would handle Tiger Lily
and the gang; I had a whole teachable moment speech prepared for intermission.

Instead, I found myself pleasantly surprised. While there is no doubt that the source material is
problematic, this production works to minimize the racist treatment of the Native Neverlanders.
The group, originally called Indians, are renamed Native Neverlanders, which is an awkward
mouthfull to be sure, but creates an entirely different vibe. And Peter goes out of the way to
make sure we understand that these are indeed the native settlers of Neverland. The Native
Neverlanders themselves are strong and dressed fairly classically. By and large, their portrayal
takes most of the silliness of the original portrayal, and this show certainly does not need the
original, racist portrayals for laughs.

Crisp acting is just one part of the equation for Peter Pan, but effects create several of the most
important characters in the play, and no production of this story can get off the ground without
its characters getting off the ground in at least a semi-believable fashion. Luckily, the team
behind the stagecraft of this production are up to the challenge, making sure that kids of all ages
can buy in to Tinkerbell’s antics and can see the joy of the flight of youth.

The North Shore’s production of Peter Pan is one of the strongest stagings at the theater in
recent memory, and can be easy to be swept off your feet and want to believe in Neverland.
However, be warned – if you bring your 12-year-old, you’ll definitely embarrass her if you leave
the theatre singing.

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