Since he first appeared on London’s stage, two days after Christmas in 1904, Peter Pan has flown into the hearts of children around the world and rose to the heights of cultural icon.
Later adapted into books and numerous film interpretations the story of the “boy who never grows up” is cherished by each generation.
However the task of bringing Pan alive behind the footlights today is not so simple.
The original treatment of Native Americans in novels and scripts – the most well-known perhaps being the abominably racist Disney feature cartoon in 1954 – is a showstopper.
Even some scrubbed or otherwise sanitized versions of the play miss the mark for wholesome family entertainment.
And so it was, when Princeton’s Heather Anderson chose to direct Peter Pan as the Christmas performance for Crimson Tine Theatre group, there was an opportunity for thoughtful choices.
Some of the language “well, it really wasn’t appropriate,” said Anderson.
Enter members of the Upper Similkameen Indian Band, who consulted on, wrote and eventually performed in the interactions involving natives in this traditional classic.
Nineteen-year-old Kassandra Skillings created a second-act scene that incorporates authentic clothing and traditional dance, and she performs as Mother Morning Cloud.
“It was really important to me when I heard about Peter Pan that the native scenes be played by our people,” said Skillings.
She said she used “my own experiences” to script the dialogue between a grateful parent and her daughter, Tiger Lily played by Mia Holmes.
In other respects Peter Pan as performed for Princeton sticks fairly close to the story the audience will remember.
Wendy doesn’t want to leave the nursery, Pan and Tinkerbell show up looking for Peter’s shadow and the whole family eventually jumps out the window on the way to Neverland.
The production’s leading actors are worthy of their roles.
Abby Fulton, as Wendy Darling, is remarkably composed. Her character seems to step right off a Hollywood storyboard and that illusion is not harmed by the actress’ marked resemblance to a young Keira Knightley.
Jordyn Bzdel takes on the demanding role of Peter Pan, and she brings the energy of a gymnast to the character. Her Pan is engaging, mischievous and lots of fun to follow.
However if there is a character that can make or break a production of Peter Pan it’s Tinkerbell. (Just ask Julia Roberts.)
Taylor Hornslien, only nine-years-old, simply sparkles on stage. She consistently does the job that Tinkerbell is supposed to do – that is to steal each scene where she has only a small part and is, after all, only a very small fairy.
There are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments in this presentation and many of them belong to those two infamous swashbucklers, Captain Hook and Smee, played respectively by Josh Herzog and Dick Bird.
Herzog’s natural bluster and confidence make him the perfect choice for such a villain. Bird’s maturity and timing help hold the quick-moving action together in the second act.
Of course there are more fairies and pirates, lost boys and mermaids – all doing adorable jobs.
With at least 25 child actors and more than a dozen musical numbers in the production Anderson can be credited with both courage and patience.
“It is a little like organized chaos,” Anderson admitted. “There’s just this energy level and all this noise and I just have to suck it up.”
Anderson makes clever decisions with audience interaction, and uses the entire theatre space to the cast’s best advantage.
Deserving of special recognition behind the scenes is Emily Bain-Herzog, producer and the wizard who created the show’s spectacular costumes.
The backdrops and sets are stunning and creative – as they always are in a Crimson Tine production. In some instances with this show however that rubs against the players as the moving of elaborate scenery and props between scenes is time consuming and distracting.
You will enjoy Crimson Tine Players’ Peter Pan. Grab a happy thought and get your tickets.
There are four evening shows, November 24 and 25 and December 1 and 2. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and curtain is at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $5 for children, $10 for students and seniors, $15 for adults and families may attend for $40.
A December 2 matinee is scheduled for 2 p.m., doors open at 1:30 p.m. and tickets are $5.
Cast and crew members not previously noted are Shaelin Tomusiak, Aaliyah Holmes, Nathan Anderson, Mya Robbins, Carrie McIvor, Noelle Roccamatisi, Dianne Rainer, Erika Carter, Lacey Baird, Karen Fulton, Marcus Fulton, Polly Carter, Tairyn Legge, Jasmin Peters, Brooklyn Cox, Rose Carter, Dayton Wales, Grace Scollon, Colton Callihoo, Olivia Holloway, PattyAnn Peal, Andrew Carter, Deacon Holloway and Caprice Roccamatisi.
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