Every year, the Summer Players from South Coast Repertory's Theater Conservatory seem to get more and more ambitious. This year's production is a sprawling, multi-ensemble version of that century-old family favorite "Peter Pan," now celebrating its 110th anniversary as an entity and its 60th anniversary as a Broadway musical.
No, Peter and his little Darlings don't fly — the production budget surely would burst, along with insurance costs, if they did. But this full-length show, directed with imaginative verve by Hisa Takakuwa, gets airborne figuratively with assorted lost boys, pirates and Indians clashing choreographically under the inspired tutelage of Kelly Todd.
Nearly 40 performers spill over the stage, in from the audience and out of a doghouse (the lone holdover from London on the Neverland set) in this richly imagined, enthusiastically presented entertainment. Specialty figures (a lion, a kangaroo and an ostrich) move in and out of the action seemingly at random to enrich the production's atmosphere.
In the title role of the boy who never grew up, Christopher Huntley brings the character's familiar naivete blended with cockiness as he charms young Wendy Darling and challenges the nefarious Captain Hook. Huntley, performing in his 10th Summer Players production, balances his narcissistic "I Gotta Crow" solo with a tender duet with Wendy on the virtues of "Neverland."
Shane Iverson is quite charming and introspective as Wendy, who's drawn to Peter but too young to express her feelings adequately. Jaden Fogel is fine as middle kid John while, in a bit of cross-gender casting, Nika Natalie Aydin is believable as their stuffed-bear-hugging little brother, Michael.
The strongest performer on stage is Summer Players graduate Nick Slimmer, whose deep, authoritative voice makes the role of the evil Captain Hook his own. Slimmer also scores early in the show when he doubles as the fussbudget father of the Darling children.
One character choice is sure to confuse, however. Kira Wendland, an accomplished ballerina, appears first as the children's London nurse, then inexplicably turns up in Neverland to become part of the ensemble and offer a balletic turn or two. She even shares a duet with Peter Pan. A change of costume might lessen the head-scratching.
Rachel Charny is a fiery, energetic Tiger Lily, leader of the Indian maidens who line up on Peter's side. Blake Laszlo offers a cunning, comical Smee, the captain's first mate, and Kyra Goff barks her way to a few more laughs as the kids' canine nurse, Nana.
Choreographer Todd and musical director Erin McNally have done a splendid job of moving the humongous cast in and out of the action. Sara Ryung Clement's setting and costume design are colorful and imaginative.
Many professional hands have had a part in bringing James M. Barrie's masterpiece to the stage — Jerome Robbins, Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, to name a few. Flight or not, this "Peter Pan" will charm audiences of all ages as it did my granddaughters, 7 and 4, at South Coast Repertory.
The Laguna Playhouse is bringing back the Motown sound this week and next with "Motorcity Magic, a Musical Journey Through the Motown Years."
The show features music of Motown legends the Four Tops, the Supremes, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross and many others. Tickets are $46 to $66 and may be ordered at (949) 497-2787 or online at http://www.lagunaplayhouse.com.
TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.
If You Go
What: "Peter Pan"
Where: South Coast Repertory, Segerstrom Stage, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: Closing performances at 7 p.m. Friday, 1 and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Cost: $13 to $16
Information: (714) 708-5555 or http://www.scr.orghttp://www.scr.org