OREM — Often people are hesitant to go see a show that they aren’t familiar with. Or maybe that’s just me. I wasn’t sure how I felt about seeing an new original adaptation of a classic like Peter Pan. But the new adaptation at the SCERA, entitled Peter Pan’s Great Adventure at the SCERA wasn’t dull or disappointing, but rather a fun and enjoyable night out. This one-hour version of James M. Barrie‘s classic tale by Chase Ramsey (book) and David Paul Smith (music and lyrics) is full of solid performers and designs, a solid script, and enjoyable music.
After seeing other productions that used the talents of Shawn M. Mortensen both on and off stage, I was excited to see what he’d bring to this production. I was not disappointed. Mortensen acted as Captain Hook/Mr. Darling and also designed the set. I enjoyed, for example, the scene where Mr. Darling waved around a coat hanger, alluding to the doubled role as Captain Hook. As Captain Hook, Mortensen brought humor and fun along with one of the best voices in the production. Mortensen commanded that stage like the pirate captain commanded his ship. I know Captain Hook is supposed to be the villain, but he was definitely my favorite character in this production. Like Mortensen, other cast members played multiple roles: Delayne Dayton played Mrs. Darling and the pirate Smaug. Ardon Smith played the dog, Nana, and also doubled as a pirate. I enjoyed Dayton’s performance as a loving caring mother, but I think I preferred her bumbling pirate.
One of the performers who did not double roles was McKayla Hansen, who made the ideal Wendy Darling with her sweet childlike innocence, but also conveyed a mother’s sternness to the Lost Boys when needed. Peter Pan was played by Dallin Major. Although Peter Pan is the namesake of the show, Major’s performance didn’t really standout to me and sometimes seemed flat. This may be an issue with the adaptation because this version of the story seemed to be more about Wendy and Hook. Major’s performance was not bad per se; Hansen and Mortensen just seemed to outshine him in some scenes, though this tendency was not enough to take away from the fun of the story.
Mortensen’s set for this production used both units that were flown in and platforms, along with a starry backdrop. I loved that the faces of the platforms had painted silhouettes scenes from Neverland because they gave a sense of impending adventure during the opening nursery scene. Moreover, the set design helped to convey adventures that didn’t make it in to the one-hour adaptation. However, part of the nursery always remained on stage. I enjoyed this because I felt it was a whispering that the children were only dreaming and that they never really left their nursery. What I found annoying was that during the Pan’s hideout scenes it was still too obviously the London nursery. Although camouflage netting was hung from the boys’ bunkbed, the painting of Van Gogh’s Starry Night seemed very out of place in Pan’s hideout, as did the dresser behind the bunkbed.
As everyone familiar with Peter Pan knows, flying is a part of the story. I was curious as to how this would be accomplished in this production. I found the solution to be clever. The flying scene mainly takes place in front of a starry backdrop. The flyers are wheeled around on wagons with sides that look like miniature city silhouettes, thus creating an illusion of the characters being high above the city. Other technical aspects included a laser to create Tinkerbell flying around. I loved that Pan could present the illusion of “catching” Tinkerbell by snatching at the green beam of light while turning on a small green light that he held. I do wish, though, that when he released her so that the audience could see the same green light that was seen as Tinkerbell entrance before Peter caught her.
As the directors, Ramsey and Smith created many opportunities for audience participation, from cheering on Pan to secret signals to the pirates when the Lost Boys were near. Cast members were frequently in the aisles, bringing the action closer to the young audience members. SCERA continues to be the most family- and children-friendly theatre I’ve attended recently. Often, I find that theatre for young audience excludes children three years old and younger, which makes it hard for young families to go to productions. SCERA, however, does not discourage young children and even provides a cry room at back of the theatre where adults can take noisy children without much disruption to their neighbors and the production. So if having young children is keeping you from going to these productions I recommend the SCERA. My young child attended the production and loved the music, the lights, clapping to show a belief in fairies, and all of the action of stage. I loved giving her a theatre experience at a young age, and I also enjoyed the production. Peter Pan’s Great Adventure is the perfect outing for families.