Peter Pan The Musical at Children’s Theatre Company

Tyler Michaels and Alanna Saunders in Peter Pan The Musical.

Tyler Michaels and Alanna Saunders in Peter Pan The Musical. Photograph by Dan Norman.

Brimming with playful charm, Peter Pan the Musical bounds onto the Children’s Theater stage, emphasizing the lighthearted excitement of the story’s well-known adventures while also offering up some nifty new tricks. The story is a mainstay for the company, having been told five times previously, but this production is the first to tell the story in musical form, with its recognizable Morris Charlap melodies (“I’m Flying,” “I Won’t Grow Up”) and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh (with additional music and lyrics by Jule Styne, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green).

Peter Pan The Musical takes us on a journey through a child’s fantastical imagination. We travel from the home of the Darling family to Neverland, a far-away place filled with dastardly pirates, a dangerous pride of young “pounces,” and a group of rambunctious “lost boys,” led by the titular child Peter (Tyler Michaels). After some convincing, Peter agrees to fly Wendy and her brothers to Neverland with Wendy serving as their surrogate mother.

This plot is familiar, but director Peter Rothstein manages to imbue this production with life. CTC’s Neverland is characterized by a psychedelic landscape of bright, vibrant colors thanks to set designs from Walt Spangler and frilly, sparkling costumes, even for the pirates, offered by Linda Cho. They give the show an airiness that stands in contrast to its many times dangerous scenarios – likely a good choice considering the company’s target audiences.

Yet, this lightness also emphasizes one of the production’s flaws – there simply is not a tangible sense of conflict between the perpetually warring tribes of Neverland, and this makes Peter Pan The Musical lack tension it badly needs. Nowhere is this more true than in the show’s too sudden resolution during the climactic fight scene between the pirates and everyone else. The issue is not that the plot lacks adventure, but that this adventure feels too slight to fully engage.

In terms of performances, however, Peter Pan The Musical dazzles. The show is led by the acrobatic energy and clear vocals of Tyler Michael’s Pan, and bolstered by company members Reed Sigmund and Dean Holt as Hook and Smee, respectively. They match Michaels’s energy and playfulness while channeling their best Abbot and Costello interplay. Also lovely is Alanna Saunders, a newcomer to the Minnesota stage, as Wendy, whom she portrays with a delicate balance of childlike innocence and a desire to hold adult responsibilities.

While Peter Pan The Musical‘s large cast is uniformly endearing, its sheer size presents some issues in terms of blocking and choreography. In particular, the recently written “True Blood Brothers” (which replaces the blatantly racist “Ugg-a-Wugg”) provides the show with a huge ovation but is hampered by hectic staging and an often flat melody.

Nevertheless, this song highlights the show’s best new feature: Tiger Lily and her “pounces”, a group of tiger-like girls who replace the traditional “Indians” of past versions. Led by a ferocious and strong Tiger Lily (Meghan Kreidler), the group is formidable and undeniably cool. This update works particularly well and the gender-specific groupings within the context of childhood help to underscore the tensions between Pan and Tiger Lily.

Regardless of some small flaws, this particular production plays well to its target audience, made clear by one blond-haired preschool-aged boy on the way out, who said to his grandpa, “Well that was really fun!” If you are a parent, his short review likely overshadows any quibbles we may have expressed.

David and Chelsea Berglund, in addition to their reviews for HowWasTheShow.com, review movies on their site Movie Matrimony.

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