Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews
||El Dorado Musical Theatre
|Date(s) of show
||November 8-24, 2013
||Peter Pan has arrived.
And El Dorado Musical Theatreís version is not Peter Pan like
youíve ever seen it before. Iím one of those whose memory of Peter
Pan goes back to the Disney movie (first run, mind you!) and Mary
Martin playing the title role on TV. So when I attended opening night of
this production, a lot of the musical numbers were new to me. And the
way those musical numbers were staged makes me believe that you could
not possibly have seen Peter Pan done like this. Director and
choreographer Debbie Wilson works from a script, but I bet it doesnít
tell her how to choreograph the dance numbers Ė or maybe even whether
certain songs should be choreographed. And it is the choreography that
puts this show over the top. In every EDMT show I have seen choreography
and dance moves that Iíve never seen before Ė that I couldnít even have
imagined. And this show was no exception. It felt like there was one
highly choreographed, high-energy scene after another. It was stunning.
Compared to what was to come, the opening scenes of the show were pretty
tame. What stood out to me in the early going was the consistency of the
accent in the dialog, pretty much across all the characters. Even
Professor Henry Higgins might not have been able to pinpoint what part
of England the speakers came from, but they sure didnít sound like they
were from around here and that helped craft the wonderful illusion
unfolding on the stage. The illusion was helped by EDMTís typically
elaborate sets, beginning with that of the Darlingís nursery. But the
effect of the sets paled in comparison with that of the flying, starting
with Peter Panís entrance, soaring through an opened window. I think
everyone in the theater knew in advance that the actors would be flying,
but itís still impressive when you see it, and there were some
delightful surprises that involved actors suspended above the stage.
The first few scenes also helped focus attention on the character of
Peter Pan. There is a fascinating back story on the casting and
preparations for this show in the online magazine, Stage Pass (click
here to open it in a new window). I had read the article before the
show, and so I knew something about Kiersten Hunter and what she went
through to get ready for this role. Knowing all that, as I watched her
perform, I became convinced that it was not a high school girl up there.
She didn't speak, sing, act, look, or move like a girl (or even any boy
Iíve known). That was Peter Pan. The transformation was perfect.
Of course, Peter Pan is not really a comic character, but so many of the
others are: Andrew Wilson was a deliciously evil Captain Hook, and his
pirate crew (especially his cousin, Zach Wilson as Mr. Smee) were
hilarious, as were the lost boys and the Indians. I think the comedy was
enhanced because the audience, many of them enthused EDMT fans, were
really charged up. How charged up? Hook enters the stage for the first
time, and they boo him. His reaction? ďBut I havenít done anything yet!Ē
Surely that wasnít in the script, but it was one of so many fun moments
in this show.
As is always the case with EDMT, the singing was strong, due no doubt in
great measure to the efforts of vocal director, Jennifer Wittmayer. I
spoke with Kiersten Hunterís voice teacher at intermission, and Iím sure
a lot of special work went into crafting that character singing voice
that came through so strongly. But what surprised me most was the
ensemble sound when the stage was full, including the youngest
performers. It was a pleasing, unified, articulated sound that really
delivered in some important numbers.
And speaking of the youngest performers, what impressed me (and the
people sitting next to me) even more was their mastery of so much
complex choreography. Sixty-plus kids of all ages executing the same
sharp moves in almost perfect unison, for minutes on end Ė while singing
Ė was simply amazing.
Once again, the costuming for an EDMT production was nothing short of
inspired. For the pirates and lost boys especially, it looked like
Christine Martorana and her associates just let their imagination run
wild Ė except for Captain Hook. His costume seemed to me like a
wonderful combination of how Hook appeared in the original Disney movie
and the character Dustin Hoffman played in the movie, Hook. And
the way they did the crocodile was especially fun, drawing laughs every
time he appeared.
I have to end by emphasizing the dancing. The big dance numbers (and
there seemed to be more of them in this show than in other recent EDMT
shows) were fascinating, engaging and simply stunning. Between the dance
numbers and the staging, it sometimes felt like the activity was
nonstop: Indians then Lost Boys then pirates then Indians, etc. To me,
this was a constant, high-energy visual feast.
There are a lot of shows and concerts I want to see in the coming weeks,
but having seen the Neverland Cast, I'm terribly curious to see what the
Tinkerbell Cast can do. If I can see this show twice, and you're still
not sure about seeing this show once, please keep this in mind. This is
not a holiday kiddie show. This is a major production. And I donít think
there is a jaded adult or a TV-numbed child who would not find it wildly
UPDATE: I saw the Tinkerbell Cast last night and (no surprise) it was
the same outstanding show Ė except that all the actors were different,
an amazing feat in itself, considering how complex the action was.
Bethany Wheat's Peter Pan was the same energetic, androgynous,
self-confident, character I saw last week, with her own strong singing
voice, and with enough differences to be interesting and fun to watch.
Alex Levy was a somewhat taller Captain Hook but with the same swagger
and buffoonery I saw before, and Dylan Gray's Mr. Smee was full of his
own style of physical comedy. As he entered for the first time,
Hook met the audience's booing with the same "But I haven't done
anything yet," so maybe the line was scripted Ė or maybe it was a clever
ad lib from opening night that was worth repeating. Oh sure, I have my
favorites (in both casts), so I'm glad I saw them both. And the
consistent quality of the two casts is yet another tribute to the
excellent planning, training, coaching, and directing that characterize
every production of the El Dorado Musical Theatre.