Class Act’s Peter Pan Proves the Show Must Go On

I continue threatening to one-day author a book on the theatre entitled, “Opening Night Surprises.” I’m sure there have been many such surprises through the years, and there were a few more during the wonderful recent premiere of Class Act ‘s “Peter Pan.” Based on the familiar play by J.M.Barrie, (I won’t boor you recounting the story), this musical production features the music of Mark Charlap and Carolyn Leigh, and is directed by Keith Brumfield. The cast of nearly ninety eager and talented young thespians (I wish space allowed me to mention them all) was beautifully costumed by Caroline Zirilli, and this fun-filled entertainment proved beyond a doubt that “the show must go on!”

The curtain rose on a charming and dreamlike nursery scene that looked like a large dollhouse had come to life (Set Designer, Jonathan Shelledy, Scenic Artist, Joan Rothhammer, and Lighting Designs by Blake Minor). As the dog, Nana (Luke Fewster), watches over the nursery, we meet the Darling family. There is Mother (Diane Goldsmith), Father (Grady Randle), and their children, Wendy (Lauren Lawson), John (Nick Venzin), and speaking of darling, little charmer Harrison Baker, who should be cast in the title role of “Oliver” at the earliest opportunity. The three youngsters form a wonderful vocal trio as they join Mother for the sweet “Tender Shepherd” lullaby my family enjoyed fifty years ago when Mary Martin starred in the classic NBC television version “…brought to you in living color!”

Next came the dramatic, high-flying arrival from Neverland of Peter Pan (played by Abbey Moss), and Tinkerbell (played by Green Laser). Thus, our first Opening Night surprise: Peter’s impressive flight through the bedroom windows and into the nursery, apparently jostled and disabled the body microphone of Miss Moss. While not always audible during this unexpected development, the young actress showed she was ready to carry on, singing out bravely, in the large Nancy Bock Performing Arts Center auditorium, as though nothing had happened. The songs “Neverland,” and “I’m Flying” suffered from this audio glitch, but the magical, mid-air flying acrobatics of Peter and the children helped to offset the problem to the delight of the audience. (Flying Effects provided by ZFX, Inc.)
Act II opens in a lush Neverland forest with the graceful ballet of the Indian Princesses, and then we meet the rowdy Lost Boys and the scheming Pirates, led by conniving Captain Hook (amusingly played by talented baritone, Trey Westerberg.) “Hook’s Tango” with the pirates, was at its focused best in the opening section when choreographer, Fayla Curry, had this motley crew lined up like rejected Rockettes for their hilariously tangled tango. Hook takes flight when the crocodile (Megan Doyle) threatens, and then there is a wonderful dance of the Indians, with fierce dancing led by Tiger Lily (Taylor Neville) and equally fierce drumming (Robert Amyx, with Musical Director, Rae Moses, leading the 8-member Peter Pan Orchestra.)

The Lost Boys join Peter in a scene that was repeatedly victimized by sound and static problems, but the pleasant song, “Wendy” benefited from intermission repairs to Moss’ microphone, and at last we could fully hear her very lovely singing voice. She brilliantly demonstrated it again in the sassy “I Won’t Grow Up,” featuring great support from the boys. Hook and the pirates brought great fun to “Hook’s Tarantella,” and Pan and Tiger Lily led the raucous spectacle of “Ugg-A-Wugg,” with the dazzling choreography of its stick and drum dance. Calming that excitement was the mystical and lovely “Distant Melody” duet of Peter and Wendy. It was a highlight of the evening.

When Westerberg returns with the pirates for the delicious “Hook’s Waltz,” he demonstrates a powerful and pleasing voice, some amusing dance steps, and great comic timing. (What a ham!) He accomplishes all this just in time, because in the ensuing mayhem of the plot, his grand pirate wig was accidentally pulled from his head, along with his microphone connections. But ever the trouper, Westerberg threw the wig aside, bowed grandly to the roaring crowd and carried on.

But Westerberg is not the only trouper who has carried on. Thank goodness for Class Act Director/Founder, Keith Brumfield, who now approaches the tenth anniversary of this community organization that has been a life-changing force for more youngsters than we could ever count. When will The Woodlands properly declare him a “Hometown Hero?”

Peter Pan will be performed today at 2:30 p.m. in the Nancy Bock Center for Performing Arts at 3800 Panther Creek Drive in The Woodlands. For tickets visit www.classactproductions.org.

(The Courier    7.21.06)

Class Act Reviews

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About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the Lambs Club, he is also editor of The Lambs' Script. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic@earthlink.net.
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