REVIEW: Peter Pan (Emerald City Theatre)

Tinkerbell’s pixie-dust works its magic on rollicking production

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Emerald City Theatre presents:

Peter Pan

Based on the character created by J.M. Barrie
Book and lyrics by Alyn Cardarelli
Music by Steve Goers
Directed by Matthew Gunnels
Thru July 22nd at
Apollo Theatre, 2540 N. Lincoln (more info)

reviewed by Katy Walsh

Disney, Depp, Dustin, Duncan, the legend of Peter Pan has been retold and reimagined on stage and screen for over a century. This time its Emerald City Theatre’s adaptation as they present the world premiere of Peter Pan. Based on the character created by J.M. Barrie, Emerald City has created an energetic and colorful musical of the infamous boy who didn’t want to grow up. This version focuses on Wendy’s rite of passage. Mr. and Mrs. Darling want Wendy to move out of her childhood nursery and put on a big girl’s dress. Wendy wants to play! Cue the Pan. Peter arrives to whisk her away. He takes her to Neverland, a magical island where lost boys, pirates, Indians and a crocodile duel it out daily in the ultimate never ending game. Emerald City’s Peter Pan is a fun family pleaser with comedy and sentimentality that reaches the child in all of us.

In my Peter Pan encounters, I’ve never rooted for the pirates. Until now! Aside from trying to stab and poison people, Captain Hook (Michael Kingston) and Smee (Zev Steinberg ) are likable guys. Steve Goer‘s “Pirates with a Plan” song is a standout number with Kingston and Steinberg’s comedic antics. In particular, Steinberg is acrobatic in his movement throughout the play. His fight with Jamila Turner (Tiger Lilly) has a thrilling physicality. And Turner shifts gears perfectly in her dual roles as a strong, independent princess warrior and the empathetic maternal Mrs. Darling. Michael Rieman (Tootles) and Caleb Probst (Slightly) are hilarious as the lost boys and later in drag as the mermaids. Allison Lind (Wendy) is wonderful playing a girl playing a mother in a pretend world. With a permanent angelic smile, Ryotaro Shigeta (Peter) exudes a youthful arrogance and sense of fun. He is definitely “The Pan.”

Sprinkling the pixie dust on his talented ensemble, Matthew Gunnels directs a briskly paced sixty minute adventure. The choreography (Ernie Nolan ) is bursts of activity in the lively chases and fighting. The costumes (Branimira Ivanova ) are childlike fun. Peter and the lost boys wear lively patchwork outfits that fit a child’s imaginative style; the mermaids are in vibrant wigs and tails swimming on rollers. This Peter Pan production is all about special touches that add to its entertainment value. Special props to the prop master (Jenny Pinson). Hook has multiple versions of his prosthetic hand, including a toothbrush. One of my favorite moments is the glasses, umbrella and teddy bear used in the very satisfying ending. It was a nod out to the Disney version of “Peter Pan” which made me a little misty for my own childhood bedroom. Emerald City’s Peter Pan magically transports you back to Neverland. Whether it’s for the first-time or a return visit, the voyage is a fun trip!

Rating: ★★★½

Running time: Sixty minutes with no intermission. Parking lot available for earlier arrivals. This play is suitable for families with children ages 3 to 12 years .

EXTRA CREDIT:

REVIEW: The True Story of the 3 Pigs (Emerald City Theatre)

Hamming it up for the over 5 set!

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Emerald City Theatre presents:

The True Story of the Three Pigs

By Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
Adapted by Alyn Cardarelli
Directed by Ernie Nolan
Thru March 25th (ticket info)

By Katy Walsh

Joe Goldammer (little pig) with Ruby Aufmann The media investigates a double ham-icide. Emerald City Theatre presents The True Story of the Three Pigs. The play starts where the three pigs fairytale ends. Two pigs are dead. The wolf is in jail. Random Adjective, a reporter, has been assigned to examine the evidence. The audience is invited to accompany her as greenhorn reporters. Her investigation leads to interviews with the surviving pig, Red Riding Hood, and the wolf. The True Story of the Three Pigs is an interactive play that teaches children that there are many sides to a story and to always cover your mouth when you sneeze.

Joe Goldammer uses distinctive voices to play multiple roles: a high pitch squeak for the surviving pig, garble growls for nana wolf, and portrays Red Riding Hood as a German research expert on wolves. Although entertaining for adults, Goldammer’s best comedic moments may be lost on the little ones. Samantha Nicodemus plays Random Adjective as a fast talking reporter from the 1940’s. Nicodemus does a great job of keeping the kids connected to what’s happening by reviewing the evidence after each interview. Matt Olson is the Big Bad Wolf or Alexander T. Wolf. In two of the crime reenactments, Olson is the stereotyped Big Bad Wolf. However, when Alexander T. Wolf gets to tell his version of the story, he is a vulnerable, misunderstood wolf with allergies. Ernie Nolan  directs the action and keeps the cast animated with exaggerated gestures to elicit giggles.

pigs2It’s obvious upon entering the Apollo Theatre that Emerald City Theatre loves kids! They keep the 60-minute show interactive. Kids volunteer to come up on stage to verify huff puff results or model reporter moxie. After each interview, the audience members (i.e., greenhorn reporters) are invited to ask questions and assess the 5 W’s and 1 H (who, what, when, where, why and how). The repetitive nature of the reenactments help the younger audience members follow the story. Emerald City also adds to the children’s theatrical experience by providing coordinating gifts and games, pre-show pig-snout-making activity and post-show autographs with the cast. The kids even decide one of three endings. Applause determines what the newspaper headline will be. (for the opening performance the greenhorn reporters voted that the wolf was actually innocent)

The show promotes its target audience as 3-8 years old. Observing the children in the audience, a 5 years-or-over rating seems more realistic. Newspaper reporter, ham on a platter, German scientist – the story has some complicated elements to follow. Although the cast has colorful costumes (Ernie Nolan), the minimal scenery isn’t visually exciting. Unable to follow the story and without colorful stimulation, the pre-schoolers may become victim to the paparazzi. They don’t care about the truth! They want the three pigs fairytale.

Rating: ★★★

Helpful links:

3LittlePigs-Emerald

Matt Olson as the Big Bad Wolf (aka Alexander T. Wolf) greets greenhorn reporters Max and Ruby after the performance.


Creative team includes: Nic Jones (lighting), Joe Court (sound), Jenny Pinson (props), Joshua Lansing (technical director) and Scott Deter (stage manager)