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