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Review

 
 

Keeping us all believing in fairies and never growing up too much is James M. Barrie’s immortal Peter Pan, and this classic musical version by Carolyn Leigh and Mark Charlap gets a magnificent reincarnation thanks to Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale where four casts in rep take on the roles of pirates, lost boys, Indians, a variety of exotic beasts, a jealous fairy, and the Darling family. 

I was able to catch two of the casts during an extended run of the show, both of which were led by Melanie Heredia in the title role. Melanie is a great combination of playful, amusing (especially as the “mystery lady” taunting Hook), and sad for the life he might have led when she nostalgically sings the lullaby once sung by his mother, the Distant Melody, before saying goodbye to his Lost Boys. 

Alas, Peter might have to say goodbye to everyone if the dastardly Captain Hook gets his way. Here we’ve got a great actress and actor in the different casts. Emily Stevens is a hoot as Hook who has great natural comedic skills throughout, including a hilarious duet with Peter as the veiled “mystery lady,” and whose yearning to do Peter in has her just barely forcing her hook away from the sleeping boy, then stealing his teddy bear and gleefully making it wave goodbye. She works well with her fellow pirates, including the terrific team with her Smee, the amusing Cade Frankson. Then there’s Emily’s big finale that required a lot of improv when I saw it. As Hook declared he was going to grab a bomb from the barrel, the littlest pirate (Andrew Baiamonte) who was supposed to hand Hook the bomb from inside the barrel suddenly popped out and cried, “There’s no bomb!” Emily reacted quickly to the prop malfunction, picking up Andrew and using him as the bomb, threatening the rest of the cast before finally handing off the innocent-looking explosive device to Peter Pan. 

On the other Hook, David Buehrle makes his grand entrance in the arms of his beloved pirates who carry him like he’s on a litter before plopping him onto the stage. David is a master of physical comedy and timing who delights in taunting all his prisoners, ponders the mysteries of the universe when his “boink” sound effect after hitting Smee on the head is delayed a bit, shrieks “Oh my goodness!” and pushes Smee (a brilliant turn by Sam MacDonald as Hook’s right hand man) out of the way when the chips are down, uses Smee’s butt to cool off his fingers when he touches the hot mushroom (giving Smee a bit of a pause), encourages Cecco (Maxwell Chase) to go into the ship’s cabin of certain death by playfully shadow boxing him, and chides Starkey (Ethan Smart) into the same demise with “Oh, Starkey, don’t be a girl.” The levity paused only when his sword went flying into the audience. After a pale Hook saw that no one was injured, he had to grovel and beg for the kind return of his sword from a playful audience member, with Hook expressing his hope that he might keep his last real hand during the delicate handover. 

Elsewhere, Haley Johnson is an exceptionally sweet and motherly Wendy who delivers a humorous Hamlet synopsis, with the highly talented Sierra Corbett as the other Wendy who uses her voice so perfectly both talking and singing-wise. Indian leader Tiger Lily is played by the magnetic and highly expressionable Alana Doyle and then by the warriorish and athletic Genai Cavender, both strong dancers leading the Indians through the well-choreographed and executed Ugg-a-Wug scene. Chance Garland played John, and the character of Michael was split between Zachary Denious and Riley Glick as Wendy’s charismatic young brothers excited at the adventures Peter takes them on. Lauryn Martin and Kristin Alba deliver nice performances as Mrs. Darling (Mr. Darling being written out of this one), while Natasha Milligan and Lindsay Blaire as the Darling’s maid Liza embark happily on adventures of their own, and Sarah Pansing and Jillian Pond are determined crocodiles who doggedly scoot across the stage in pursuit of Hook. 

From the leads to the smallest lost boys, Indians, and melodramatically vicious pirates, it’s remarkable how talented these casts are. Tons of great young actors who make every moment count and are always on it. They do it all in Desert Stages Theatre’s theatre in the round which isn’t really equipped for flying, but they rigged up some rigs to at least have the fairy-dusted flyers hover and sway over the stage. Andrew Witcher’s set is terrific, using every square inch of the stage and corners to great effect. Director Tiffany Atkinson, a eighteen-year-old Desert Stages alum, did an amazing job with this one, capturing so many emotions, paying careful attention al all details, and choreographing the show with Assistant Director Desiree Vaughan for several dynamic dance numbers, rounding out a production I would have gladly seen a few more times.

Performed February 20 - March 27, 2010

Rob Hopper
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Executive Director
National Youth Arts

~ Cast 1 ~

Peter Pan: Melanie Heredia
Captain Hook: Emily Stevens
Wendy: Haley Johnson
Smee: Cade Frankson
Tiger Lily: Alana Doyle
John: Chance Garland
Michael: Zachary Denious
Liza: Natasha Milligan
Mrs. Darling: Lauryn Martin
Grown-Up Wendy: Emily Temple
Jane: Kaleigh Feuerstein
Nana: Lauren Primack
Crocodile: Sarah Pansing
Twin #1: Elizabeth Johnston
Twin #2: Eila Elton
Tootles: Mia Dwyer-Kim
Nibs: Alissa Giannatti
Curly: Cassie Daly
Slightly: Connor Baker
Noodler: Kasey O'Brien
Cecco: Max Mendoza
Jukes: Madison Volk
Starkey: Alexis Grossman
Mullins: Adrian Baris
Kangaroo: Paige Michelet
Ostrich: Katy Krupinsky
Lion: Jensen Hidder

Indians:
Cayleigh Hill
Montana Ridder
Alden Sia
Sierra Susha

Lost Boys:
Kiara Carswell-Kudlo
Nia Courval
Tanti Felli
Hope Fogle
Kassidy Holland
Dasan Orlich
Alexandra Rahman
Sarah Shipley
Malia Susha
Jaelyn Theisen
Courtney Wellenstein
Madyson Whitney
Maddie Wilmink

Pirates:
Andrew Baiamonte
Jackson Dwyer-Kim
Liz Grannis
Keegan Luther
Jacob Miller
Blake Prokopek
Cameron Sanders
Madeleine Schaefer
Nathan Simmons
Seamus Simmons
Julia Wanger
Jack Weinstein

Children of London/Flowers:
Eden Altman
Annie Barget
Chloe Berlind
Rylie Conrad
Tess Defibaugh
Mia Gallagher
Lindsey Jung
Jordan Kuhn
Kendall Luther
Stella Marcuzzo
Mitra Matin
Reyva Murty
Jordyn Oppenheim
Emily Ref
Jordan Roberts

~ Cast 2 ~
Peter Pan: Melanie Heredia
Captain Hook: David Buehrle
Wendy: Sierra Corbett
Smee: Sam MacDonald
Tiger Lily: Genai Cavender
John: Chance Garland
Michael: Riley Glick
Liza: Lindsay Blaire
Mrs. Darling: Kristin Alba
Grown-Up Wendy: Michelle Pittenger
Jane: Ashely Rhoads
Nana: Jaden Grossman
Crocodile: Jillian Pond
Twin #1: Henry Nallen
Twin #2: Emilia Nallen
Tootles: Megan Sawyer
Nibs: Hannah Novack
Curly: Kaylie Stone
Slilghtly: Kendyl Feldman
Noodler: Jennifer Hecht
Cecco: Maxwell Chase
Jukes: Molly Israel
Starkey: Ethan Smart
Mullins: Meaghan Marlower
Kangaroo: Katie Morris
Ostrich: Taylor Needham
Lion: Hattie Zukas

Indians:
Serena Hudson
Sidney Hulburd
Kiley Hunter
Taylor Paulson
Olivia Rifai
Skylar Robinson
Sydney Scott
Lilly Siegel

Lost Boys:
Rachel Carroll
McKenna Dersam
Brynn Dicke
Siena Gruler
Kassidy McIntyre
Eva Navarro
Blythe Nebeker
Nicole Perman
Ava Ryan
Natalie Slaiman
Lena Soble
Lilly Weyers

Pirates:
Kiki Bullington
Annika Dicke
Ophyr Hanan
Kaden Holl
Steven Lemma
Lauren MacCann
Jordan Moore
Sharon Needham
Mason Satterlee
Grady Svelty

Children of London/Flowers:
Maeve Byrne
Ruby Carroll
Lillie Chase
DJ Coon
Malia Garland
Julia Goldenson
Isabel Joslin
Jada Moore
Talia Novack
Madelyn Peters
Lauren Subia

Artistic Director: Laurie Cullity
Director: Tiffany Atkinson
Assistant Director: Desiree Vaughan
Musical Director: Terry Temple
Choreographers: Tiffany Atkinson, Desiree Vaughan
Assistant Choreographers: Melanie Heredia, Lauren Riddiford
Dance Captains/Demonstrators:
Kristin Alba
Connor Baker
Lacey Bookspan
Taylor Brauer
Kessley Butler
Genai Cavender
Haley Cohn
Zoe Feinstetin
Kendyl Feldman
Haley Johnson
Devon Lewno
Sam MacDonald
Paige Michelet
Natasha Milligan
Shayna Moellenberg
Michelle Pittenger
Emily Stevens
Alex Swanson
Emily Temple
Jordan Yampolsky
Technical Director: Lindsey Ihrig
Set Design: Andrew Witcher
Set Construction:
Mark Baris
Zolie Berensci
Heidi & Robert Defibaugh
Mike Denious
Kurt Luther
Murali Murty
Steve Prokopek
Mike Sanders
Sounds & Lights: Addie Blessing, Haley Miller, Tanner Van Parys
Rigging Crew:
T. Baze
M. Baris
M. Baiamonte
Aimee Berencsi
Z. Berencsi
M. Blair
D. Brauer
D. Butcher
D. Cohn
V. Creese
T. Daly
R. Defibaugh
N. Dicke
B. Dubnow
R. Dwyer
C. Fogle
D. Giannatti
J. Gruler
G. Heredia
B. Holl
J. Hudson
D. Moellenberg
R. Morris
C. Peters
C. Pond
S. Prokopek
M. Sanders
J. Simmons
F. Subia
Costume Coordinators: Sandi Rodrigues, Dagne Vaughan, Stephanie Yampolsky
Costume Seamstresses: Mickey Courtney, Lia Hunyady
Make-Up Design: Jacquie Notorio

   

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