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Theater Review: "Peter Pan"

Misty Cotton as Peter Pan
Photo credit:
Ken Jacques

Kids! Always wanting to do crazy things like fly. Without a plane.

Yep, it’s the stuff of dreams. “Peter Pan” dreams, in fact, and if you’re dying to see it again – or for the first time – you have a chance to do just that through Aug. 6 at Vista’s Moonlight Amphitheatre. Steven Glaudini directs.

The musical version of James M. Barrie’s beloved story began life with music by Morris “Moose” Charlap and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, but after previews in Los Angeles proved less successful than desired, composer Jule Styne and lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green were hired to add additional music.

The show hit Broadway in 1954, and Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard won Tonys for the original version.

It’s been a favorite ever since, and Moonlight Stage Productions offers a charming, amusing and – well – magical show, perfect for a summer evening.

You know the story: Mr. & Mrs. Darling (Robert J. Townsend and Heather Lundstedt) prepare for a night out, leaving their adorable, shaggy canine nursemaid Nana (Quinton Walker) with the kids: John (Elliot Weaver), Michael (Jacob Farry) and Wendy (Jill Townsend).

After the adults leave, the kids go to sleep and fairy Peter Pan (Misty Cotton) and his buddy Tinkerbell (a ball of light) come in a window in search of Peter’s shadow that slipped off when he visited a few days earlier.

He finds it in a drawer, but when he can’t get it to stick, Wendy wakes up and offers to sew it back on. (I told you it was magical.)

Soon the boys wake up and Peter agrees to teach them all to fly, whereupon they head out for Neverland, where you can actually sing “I Won’t Grow Up” and make it stick.

There they meet an assortment of captivating creatures, like Indian maiden Tiger Lily (dancing wonder Celeste Lanuza) and a gang of pirates led by the dreaded Captain Hook (Robert J. Townsend), who wants revenge on Peter Pan for cutting off his hand and feeding it to a crocodile.

That croc (Quinton Walker) has been following Hook ever since, hoping for another tasty morsel or two.

The kids have a series of adventures, including being kidnapped and threatened with walking the plank by Hook and learning to make nice with the band of Indians.

But though it’s been fun, and even though Peter won’t go with them, the boys wish to return home.

“Peter Pan” is great escapist literature, but with a message: you can sing “I Won’t Grow Up” all you like, but you will eventually have to at least age, if not mature.

The show is well cast and a joy to watch – especially the critters.

Walker is a hoot as the nursemaid/dog Nana, and even more fun as the crocodile pursuing Hook.

Robert J. Townsend is fine as Mr. Darling, but fearsome and wondrous to watch as Capt. Hook. With a particularly fine voice, he’s also a pleasure to listen to. 

James Vasquez is a hoot as his hilarious sidekick Smee.

Cotton is an adorable and spunky Peter, and Jill Townsend, Elliot Weaver and Jacob Farry are excellent as the Darling children.

Bravo to the tech team for making the kids fly, and to Musical Directors Kenneth Gammie and J.D. Dumas for making the music work, especially the prodigious 22-member orchestra.

Kudos to Shigeru Yaji and John Iacovelli for making the rented costumes and sets (from the Cathy Rigby production) look right at home on the Moonlight stage.

The magic of “Peter Pan” may be a throwback to an earlier age, but now and then it’s nice to go back there.

The details

“Peter Pan” plays through August 6, 2016 at Moonlight Amphitheatre, 1200 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista.

Wednesday through Sunday at 8 pm

Tickets: (760) 724-2110 or www.moonlightstage.com