Peter Pan

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By Philip Pearce

LAST WEEKEND’S opening of PacRep’s Peter Pan was a double first in my playgoing life. I’d seen several renditions of JM Barrie’s popular play, but never the Mary Martin 1954 musical version. And I’d spent who knows how many evenings in Carmel’s Outdoor Forest Theater without ever joining in the popular custom of arriving early with a picnic hamper to watch the audience gradually assemble.

So this year I collected my ticket and staked out a spot in the amphitheater, armed with a Safeway turkey club wrap, a Bruno’s Market protein bar and a glass of Merlot from the  refreshment stand. I’d brought a book, but I needn’t have bothered. My tote was barely open before I was chatting with a proud grandma who was dreading a return to steaming Phoenix and clutching a pair of bouquets for two grandkids in the cast. A tap on the shoulder turned out to be a friend I hadn’t seen for years. He’d driven his daughter to so many rehearsals he’d ended up being recruited to work spotlights for the show. We were soon joined by a mom and dad and two teen-aged sons from Calgary, who’d decided on the spur of the moment to make Peter Pan a part of their California camping tour. When the mom explained to the boys that, this being a community theater show, no one would  actually fly, the rest of us clamored to assure her that the words “High Flying Family Musical” on the cover of the program meant exactly what they said.

I realized that on previous visits, I’d missed half the fun of PacRep’s outdoor summer show. This one was a bright, slickly mounted and tuneful theatrical event. But it was also a large scale local social occasion.

Stephen Moorer’s direction of a big cast of appealing players was geared to the pervading community atmosphere. Peter and the younger Darlings winged their way joyously up and down and round and round Patrick McEvoy’s attractive sets. Captain Hook shamelessly milked the crowd for laughs and hisses. And we customers flapped our elbows and crowed like raucous cockerels in a sing-along version of Peter’s “I Gotta Crow.” A tiny first-row patron whose black-rimmed glasses made him look like a four-year-old Harold Lloyd, bounced around rapturously for most of the evening.

Barring a few opening weekend technical glitches, everything up on stage went briskly. The proud granny with the bouquets assured me that was because there had been hours and hours of intensive rehearsal.

As Barrie’s boy who will never grow up, Katie Hazdovac (pictured) was all swagger and explosive energy. The lyric wistfulness that sent her over the rainbow in last year’s Wizard of Oz had changed to a full-throated boyish vocal bravado. Physically, she seemed able to strut even when she was looping gloriously around in mid-air.

But, judging from squeals of approval from the spectacled kid in the first row, the favorite of younger fans was J.T. Holmstrom’s snarling, ebullient and over-the-top Captain Hook. His crocodile nemesis, played by Yvonne “Ivy” Digirolamo, slithered effectively across the stage early in Act 2. I imagined mistakenly that this signaled a second appearance just before Hook’s death plunge from the decks of the Jolly Roger. It didn’t. Waste of one of Ziona Goren’s costumes. Too bad.

The three Darling children are double cast, so I enjoyed Sylvie Pratt’s charming Wendy, along with Samantha Scattini’s bookish John and Meredith Evans’ perky and assertive Michael.

An innovation that I liked a lot was the new nationality of Princess Tiger Lily (a lithe and energetic Sarah Horn) and her band of followers. Moorer and assistant director Susanne Burns change Tiger Lily’s tribe from tom-tom wielding Native Americans illogically living on a Pacific or Caribbean island into a troupe of Samoan style dancers, choreographed by Devin Adler. The change also made for some exciting vocal and percussion work organized by the resourceful Janice Perl.

It’s a huge cast and they do a fine job.

Peter Pan continues weekends through September 24th.

Photo by Stephen Moorer

Hooray for Hollywood

HoorayBy Philip Pearce

HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD at Pacific Rep’s Golden Bough Theatre offers a tuneful survey of movie musicals from The Jazz Singer to La La Land. Director Maryann Schaupp Rousseau and four gifted singer/actors create a fast-paced couple of hours’ worth of tuneful nostalgia peppered with the kind of corny and comfortable comedy that marked Hollywood’s golden age. Patrons are drawn into the title number by a brief funny take-off on the cell phoning, candy chomping habits of the movie going public.

Singing brunettes Malinda DeRouen and Lydia Lyons then pair up with familiar locals D. Scott McQuiston and John Newkirk. Singly and together they segue from sentimental standards like “Over the Rainbow” and “As Time Goes By” to raise-the-roof oldies like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” with an undaunted McQuiston joining the girls as a third Andrews Sister. It’s all ably accompanied by Desma Johnson, whose piano builds a pattern of melody behind the all singin’, all dancin’ activity of the vocal foursome working the stage and, at times, invading the audience.

I fit neatly into a majority of Sunday’s matinee patrons that leaned heavily on the geriatric compared to a smaller but welcome sprinkling of millennials. This meant that, for me, everything up to The Jungle Book in Act 1 was heart-warming familiar territory. Act 2, apart from “Moon River” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head” was more of an introduction to nice but unfamiliar material like Saturday Night Fever’s “Staying Alive” and the wonderful “Out Here On My Own” from Fame.

And my happiest moments were when we grizzled oldies were invited to take the spotlight with Bing Crosby while the bemused millennials politely stepped aside to hear us in a sing-along version of “Swinging on a Star.”

The show deserves praise for sticking to the limits set by its title. Apart from the closing “That’s Entertainment” every number is from a musical written specifically for the movies, not from earnest recreations of stage productions like My Fair Lady, or misguided film “improvements” like On the Town or Guys and Dolls.

Hooray for Hollywood also avoids becoming just a nice succession of unrelated bits by offering several clusters of numbers that are associated with a particular star or director. This gives credit where it’s due to notable personalities, but results in some glaring absentees. Judy Garland is justly featured in three consecutive songs, one from her pre-teen years, one from her superstar days and one from her declining career. But I missed Doris Day and Frank Sinatra. I’m aware of how much Pac Rep owes to Uncle Walt, but a whopping six Disney numbers out of a first act total of 23—without so much as a grace note from Astaire and Rogers?

But I am falling into the stage reviewers’ trap of blaming a show for what it doesn’t do instead of assessing what it does. This one sings, dances and entertains happily in the Golden Bough till September 3rd.