REVIEW: Peter Pan (Theatre-Hikes)


A fun time for all in Never Never Land


 Peter and Hook Fight A

Theatre-Hikes presents
Peter Pan
Written by J.M Barrie
Directed by
Lavina Jadhwani
at The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL  (map)
through August 29th  |  tickets: $8-$19  |  more info

reviewed by Allegra Gallian

Wandering through the paths of the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL, a boy suddenly emerges from behind the trees, crowing and dancing around with his shadow. A proper young girl sits with her brothers as they listen to their mother’s stories. Pirates run through the grass in search of the boy who can fly. Produced by Theatre-Hikes, this outdoor production of Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, the beloved children’s story by J.M. Barrie, takes the notion of Never Never Land to a new level.

The DarlingsPeter Pan opens on the Darling family. Mr. and Mrs. Darling are getting ready for a night out while the family dog, Nana takes care of the children, Wendy, Michael and John. After the children are fast asleep, Peter Pan enters their room to retrieve his lost shadow. Waking Wendy with his crying, she sews Peter’s shadow back on for him and in return he teaches the Darling children to fly.

The arboretum provides a stellar background for Peter Pan. After starting in the pavilion transformed into the Darling house, the audience literally travels with Peter past the second star to the right and straight on to Never Never Land. While walking from scene to scene, the audience becomes involved in the production, creating additional atmosphere and heightening the magic that’s occurring. All the arboretum’s a stage – a stage to be used at the actors’ disposal as Peter flits and flies around, the lost boys rally and Wendy puts them all to bed under the sky.

With such a huge performance space, the acting must really stand out, and for the most part it does. Peter Pan (Kaelan Strouse) is youthful, vibrant and full of energy. The moment Strouse enters, his child-like enthusiasm becomes infectious, connecting him to both his fellow actors and the audience. Although Strouse takes his acting a bit too over-the-top at times, he has a clear sense of character and knows exactly who Peter is.

Back in Never Never Land, Peter introduces Wendy to the lost boys and she becomes their honorary mother. Wendy (Allison Schaffer) is adorably naïve and Schaffer’s potrayal of a little girl trying to mother unruly little boys is quality work. She could take her characterization farther at a few points, but overall she’s strong in her conflict between missing her parents and leaving Peter. Kylie Edmonds stands out as Slightly, one of the lost boys. Her performance feels genuine and it’s clear she has put in the effort to figure out her character’s back story, allowing Edmonds to step out at a higher level than the rest of the group. The cast is rounded out by Ellenkate Finley as Tootles and Anne Sears as Curly.

Lost Boys, Smee and Hook

It’s not all fun and games in Never Never Land with pirates prowling about. Captain Hook (Andrew Pond) is Peter Pan’s rival, and has made it his mission to capture and kill the boy. Pond’s portrayal of Hook is more jovial than it is menacing. And while this is children’s theatre and Hook can’t be overly scary, there’s not enough differentiation between his character as Hook and his character as Mr. Darling. (Traditionally, the same actor is cast in both roles). Because of this, Hook isn’t as believable as other characters. Pond does, however, have a way with a sword, and the fight choreography by Dwight Sora following Hook’s capture of Wendy and the lost boys is thrilling to watch.

Hook’s first mate Smee (Zach Bloomfield) successfully offers well-timed comic relief. Playing both the parts of Smee and Nana, Bloomfield hilariously delivers his lines (even the ones he barked) and keeps the tone light and the audience entertained.

For all that’s good about this show, the costuming by Sarah Haley lacks. The choices are understandable and suit the characters, but some garments look more like homemade Halloween costumes than costumes for a professional theatre production.

Overall, the actors do well against the many opposing elements created by an outdoor space. Fighting the rain and bugs, they adapt to a full pavilion staging, they speak up and enunciate against a strong breeze and they play off the smaller children in the audience who yell things out during the performance. Because there’s no backstage, Peter Pan becomes interactive at points, allowing the kids in the audience to get a special experience by letting them speak and play with the actors during scene changes. Peter Pan is a fun show for people of any age with its lively energy that flows well, and the two to two-and-a-half hours of performance fly by as fast as Peter Pan himself. (FYI: Don’t forget your bug spray!)


Rating: ★★★

The Morton Arboretum is located at 4100 Lincoln Ave., Lisle IL and Theatre Hikes begins at the Thornhill Center on the west side of the arboretum. Peter Pan runs Saturday and Sunday through August 29 at 1:00 pm. Tickets are $12 (arboretum members) or $19 (non-members) adults, and $8 (members) $13 (non-members) for children. Note: Sunday shows are low-impact hikes designed for strollers and/or wheelchairs, with the hike going less than one mile.  (FYI: Don’t forget your bug spray!)

Peter and Audience



Mrs. Darling thru window

Productions Personnel


Directed by Lavina Jadhwani

Costumes Designed by Sarah Haley

Fight Choreographer – Dwight Sora

Rehearsal Stage Manager – Danielle DeFassio

Hike Leader – Page Domikaitis

Featuring: Zach Bloomfield, Kylie Edmonds, Bridget Esterhuizen, Ellenkate Finley, Michael Neumann, Andrew J. Pond, Anne Sears, Allison Schaffer, Kaelan Strouse, Chris Yearwood


(Smee/Nana) holds degrees from Kent State University, North Dakota State University, and The University of Missouri-Columbia. He taught at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma before joining the Joliet Junior College faculty where he currently serves as chair of the Fine Arts Department. Favorite roles include The Father in Six Characters in Search of an Author, Guildenstern in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and Skelly in The Rimers of Eldritch. Zach was the 2006 recipient of the Illinois Theatre Association University/College Award. In addition to a whole bunch of college acting and directing credits Zach has worked for Playcrafters Productions in Minnesota, Missouri Summer Repertory, North Dakota Repertory, and Porthouse Theatre and Trumpet in the Land in Ohio. Last summer in Chicago he appeared in The Factory Theatre production of Dead Wrong, an original script written and directed by one of his former students. Thanks to Frank, Bradley, Lavina, and everyone at Theatre-Hikes for the opportunity to spend this summer in Never Land!

DANIELLE DEFASSIO (Rehearsal Stage Manager) is excited to be working with Theatre-Hikes once again.  This is Danielle’s first time stage managing and has loved seeing theatre from "the other side."  Danielle is an alumna of Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Musical Theatre.  Since graduating in 2009 she has performed in City Lit Theatre‘s highly recommended Oh Boy!, understudied all parts for The Babes with Blades production of A Gulag Mouse, performed with Theatre-Hikes in their production of Sleepy Hollow (Anna and musician), and crooned on the Spirit of Chicago at Navy Pier.  After Peter Pan, Danielle will be adventuring into New York City!  Thank you to Lavina, Bradley, and Frank for their trust in me, this wonderful cast who has made stage managing easy, and as always the greatest family ever (mine).


(Slightly, Starkey) New to the city, Kylie is excited to make this Theatre-Hikes production her first Chicago acting gig. Earlier this year, she costumed the State Theatre of Chicago’s production of AjaxAntigone. Kylie earned her BA in Theatre Performance from Huntington University. She has worked with the Great River Shakespeare Festival, the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, and New World Arts Theatre.


BRIDGET ESTERHUIZEN (Mrs. Darling, Tiger Lily, Jukes) is excited to be in her first show with Theatre-Hikes.  Since moving to Chicago 18 months ago, she has worked with several other Chicago theaters including The Gift Theatre, Victory Gardens Theatre, Redmoon, and The Oracle Theatre.  Past favorite roles: Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing), Pennywise (Urinetown), and Elmire (Tartuffe).  Bridget is originally from the west coast where she recently completed her MFA in Acting at the University of Idaho.  She’s very happy to now be part of the best theater town in the USA! Thanks to the loved ones.


(Tootles/Mermaid/Curtain) This is Ellenkate’s Theatre-Hikes debut. She will also appear in their fall production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Chicago: J.B. (Chicago Fusion Theatre), Anything, Anything You Want and Kill Your Enemies (n.u.f.a.n. ensemble), The House of Bernarda Alba (The Library Theatre, Feltre School) Regional: Dividing the Estate, A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas (Hartford Stage Company) Museum (Peterboro Players) Education: The Hartt School: BFA, STI participant, Shakespeare & Company, Lenox MA.


SARAH HALEY (Costume Designer) is pleased to be working with Theatre-Hikes for the first time this summer!  She recently received her BA in Theatre/Art & Design from Columbia College, in addition to apprenticing with several Chicago-area milliners.  Her work will be seen next in Blues for an Alabama Sky (Greenetree Productions).  Sarah would like to thank her wonderful family and friends for their unconditional support.


LAVINA JADHWANI (Director) Directing credits include work with American Theatre Company, Apple Tree, Bailiwick, Chicago Dramatists, Infamous Commonwealth, Red Tape Theatre, the side project, Stage Left Theatre and Victory Gardens. Lavina is the Artistic Director of Rasaka Theatre Company, where she directed and curated the Chicago premiere of Yoni Ki Baat and the world premiere of culture/clash, the nation’s first South Asian short play festival. She is an Associate Artist at Silk Road Theatre Project, an Artistic Associate of Halcyon Theatre and serves on the Steering Committee of the South Asian Theatre Arts Movement. As an assistant director, Lavina has worked with Jeremy B. Cohen, Barbara Gaines, Frank Galati, Henry Godinez, Steve Scott and Chay Yew. She received LMDA awards for her work on Merchant on Venice at Silk Road and Urinetown and Arcadia at Carnegie Mellon. Lavina has been a finalist for the Luce Scholars Program, the Michael Maggio Directing Fellowship and the 3Arts Artist Awards. She is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.


(Michael Darling) is proud to be making his Theatre-Hikes Debut. Credits include: Little Lord Fauntleroy(Lord Fauntleroy) North Lakeside Players, On the Brink – Stages 2009 (Giffer), A Christmas Carol (Ebby, David Crachit, Turkey Boy) The Metropolis Theatre, The Music Man (Winthrop Paroo) The Fireside, Oliver (Oliver) New American Theater, Les Miserables (Gavroche) Yknot Productions, The King and I (Louis Leonowens), Peter Pan (Michael Darling) both at Starlight Theatre, and Our Town (Wally Webb) Artists Ensemble. He has also performed with Woodstock Musical Theatre, Pec Playhouse, and Main Street Players.


(Mr. Darling, Captain Hook)’s timbers are shivered to be making his Theatre-Hikes debut as Captain Hook in Peter Pan. He was most recently seen as Max Levene, avaricious boxing manager in Attic Playhouse’s Heaven Can Wait. Prior to that, he was seen in Out Of Order at the Metropolis Theater, appeared as the ultimate jealous husband in Murder In Green Meadows (Citadel Theatre), as Colonel Melkett (Black Comedy–Piccolo Theatre), Repete Johnson (repeat w/Madeline–Blue Heron Theatre), Bob Cratchit,(Christmas Carol–Metropolis Performing Arts Centre) and Arthur Hoyle, (Up ‘n’ Under–Circle Theatre) Andrew has worked extensively throughout the Chicagoland area with children’s theatres such as AlphaBet Soup, GreatWorks, and Boom Troupe, for whom he wrote four shows. Andrew is also an Elvis impersonator, juggles, does magic, plays with puppets, and has a degree in philosophy so he can use words like “epistemology” at parties. Otherwise, he is completely normal.


(Curly/Mermaid/Curtain) is thrilled to be working with Theatre-Hikes in their production ofPeter Pan. She was last seen slaying dragons in Lifeline Theatre‘s production of The Last of the Dragons. She will next be appearing in Polarity Ensemble Theatre‘s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Anne would like to thank her friends and family for all their love and support; and the movie Stand by Me for the wonderful character of Vern.


(Wendy) is thrilled to be making her Theater-Hikes debut with such an exciting production. Her most recent Chicago credits include Miranda in Alone at Last with Elements New Play Festival and Jenny in Chekhov Kegstand at Gorilla Tango Theatre. Allison relocated to Chicago last fall after finishing up her BFA in Acting from the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program, and she spent last summer working with the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN. She is very excited to be spending her first Chicago summer outside in the parks playing in Never Land.

DWIGHT SORA (Fight Choreographer) is thrilled to be working with Theatre-Hikes again, having previously been an actor in Treasure Island and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. In the fighting department, he has been an onstage combatant in Romeo et Juliet (Lyric Opera of Chicago) and Tribulation & the Demolition Squad (Chicago Dance Crash), and provided choreography for Pacific Overtures (Porchlight Music Theatre) and A Wind Cries Mary (A Squared Theatre Workshop). Dwight holds a second degree black belt in the Japanese martial art of aikido, manages the Chicago Aikido Club ( and works with Chicago Dance Crash ( providing free stage combat workshops to actors in Chicago.


(Peter Pan) is delighted to make his Theatre-Hikes debut! He has recently been seen in The Doctor’s Dilemma and When Everything Seemed Possible (ShawChicago), A Midsummer Nights Dream and Warring and Wooing (First Folio Theatre), Dangerous Beauty (American Music Theatre Project), Horrible (Hobo Junction), Last of My Species (Redmoon), & The Magic Ofrenda (Metropolis). He has also worked with Remy Bumppo, Apple Tree, Profiles Theatre, and many other Chicago-based theatres. Kaelan is a proud graduate of Northwestern University. He would like to share his gratitude and appreciation for Tina & Chuck, Baba & Faith, and all his family & friends for their support.


(John Darling/Panther) is thrilled to be making his Theatre-Hikes debut as John in Peter Pan. He graduated with a B.A. in Theatre from Principia College in 2008. After spending a year in Los Angeles, he decided to move to Chicago for theatre and improv. Past roles include The Prefect (The Government Inspector), Pat Denning (42nd Street), and Claudio (Measure for Measure). Chris would like to thank the cast, crew, and everyone at Theatre-Hikes for making Never Land a reality!

FYI: all bios courtesy of Theatre-Hikes’ website.  

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