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Theater review: CenterPoint's whimsical 'Peter Pan' enraptures, transports audiences

Published: Monday, Aug. 18 2014 9:00 p.m. MDT

Peter Pan (Fred Lee) whisks the Darling children (Katelin Jones as Wendy, Truman Harris as Michael and William Riches as John) to Neverland in CenterPoint Legacy Theatre “Peter Pan.”

Ron Russell, CenterPoint Legacy Theatre

“PETER PAN,” through Sept. 6, CenterPoint Legacy Theatre, 525 N. 400 West, Centerville (801-298-1302 or centerpointtheatre.org/project/peter-pan)

CENTERVILLE — Many of life’s “firsts” are celebrated — first steps, first kiss, first job. For many, seeing “Peter Pan” for the first time is an unforgettable experience. Introducing my friend Samantha to the Broadway musical adaptation is another first that I’ll remember.

While Samantha is an avid theatergoer, a flight with “Peter Pan” had eluded her. She found it to be “magical, enchanting and spectacular.”

CenterPoint Legacy Theatre had the good fortune of having Jim Christian as the director of its staging. He has a zealous attachment to “Peter Pan,” and his devotion is evident throughout the production. Under his direction, each of the characters is whimsical and entertaining.

This performance included the Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday cast.

Fred Lee is full of boyish, restless charm as he authoritatively struts with the Lost Boys. Lee is not the strongest vocalist, but the role is well-suited for the enthusiasm he shares on stage. He is convincing when he says, “I am youth, I am joy, I am freedom.” With deceptively effortless ease, he flies out of the Darling family nursery, and then later he thrillingly soars high above the audience, nearly touching the balcony, at curtain call.

Also having great fun in his role is Dru as Mr. Darling, who becomes the dastardly Captain Hook. Dru is hilarious with a mock Shakespearean delivery of his lines as Hook. It is with great relish that he speaks the signature line, “Fame, fame, that glittering bauble is mine.” Dru tries his best to be dashingly menacing but is consistently foppish as the part requires. As a dutifully bumbling assistant in Hook’s shenanigans, Dee Pace is nearly a forgotten presence as Smee. The pirates were a ragtag collection.

The unmistakable glittering bauble in this production is Katelin Jones as Wendy. Like her character’s family name, Jones is darling. She shows her considerable talents as a child about to awaken as a young woman. Jones has a confidence and magnetic presence well beyond her years.

Led by Shelby Anderson as Tiger Lily, the seven Indians dance energetically to Jessica Merrill's spirited choreography and are an entertaining portion of this production. The youngsters playing the Lost Boys appeared impervious to direction.

The richly colored and fanciful wardrobe was managed by Wendy Nagao and Tammis Boam.

The undeniable mistake here is the set design. Each of the three sets is pleasing, but scene changes delay the action. "Peter Pan" was written as a two-act play, but an additional intermission is needed here for a behind-the-curtain set change from the Darling nursery to Neverland. This poorly conceived set changeover hugely obstructs the excitement the audience should feel as Peter and the Darling children flee their home and then arrive at Neverland.

The director’s tip of the hat to the original stagings of “Peter Pan” — with the indelible performance of Mary Martin — is seen in the inclusion of the maid Liza (joyfully played by Sydney Carver). The role is frequently discarded, but it was created for Martin’s own daughter, Heller Halliday, to play opposite her mother in one of the hugely popular televised productions. The scene with Peter training Liza to "crow" is nicely presented here with the two alone on the stage apron.

With affectionate productions such as this staging, “Peter Pan” will continue to enrapture audiences and transport them to that sliver between fantasy and reality known as Neverland.

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