2018 Peter Pan poster

Peter Pan
A Main Stage Production

Featuring performers ages 6-20

This show is Rated G

Based on the play by Sir J.M. Barrie
Lyrics by: Carolyn Leigh
Music by: Morris “Moose” Charlap
Additional Lyrics by: Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Additional Music by: Jule Styne

Registration is open to performers 6-20.

November 9-18, 2018
Harris Center at Folsom Lake College

Director: Debbie Wilson
Choreographer: Anjie Rose Wilson
Vocal Director: Jennifer Wittmayer
Assistant Director: Ryan VanOvereem
Costume Designer: Karen McConnell

Theatrical Review – Peter Pan

By Dick Frantzreb

This was El Dorado Musical Theatre’s (EDMT’s) third production of Peter Pan in 12 years. I saw the 2013 show, and it was great, but this one was amazing, crammed to the brim with dazzling choreography, imaginative costumes, sets and projections  quality singing, acting and dancing  great comedy  and flying!

As the theater went dark, we were welcomed by a recorded announcement. What was special about this one, among the many I’ve heard, was that the speaker had an English accent for this show’s setting of 19th-century London. Then with the curtain up, overture played and screen lifted to reveal the nursery in the Darling home, I was pleased to hear that all the characters had tolerably good English accents. Added to this attention to detail was the clever dialog, good acting and comic touches that brought laughs from the audience. Nana the dog got most of these laughs as she reacted to the dialog of the humans.

In many ways, this scene in the Darling nursery was charming, especially the song, “Tender Shepherd,” which included a bit of 3-part harmony. I guess that we in the audience were lulled by the calm of this part of Act One, so that the entrance of Peter Pan was stunning. Announced by a bit of stage fog, the title character burst through the nursery window, starting several feet off the floor and rising straight toward the audience, face full of confidence, even bravado. From this point on, Emily Fritz, as Peter Pan, dominated the scene. She had an accent and pace of speech that seemed perfect for the boy who refused to grow up. I’m always sorry to comment on just one cast in a show that is double-cast like this one. So without the other Peter Pan (Emily Hobbs) for comparison, I have to say that Emily Fritz is easily the perkiest Peter Pan I’ve ever seen  or could even imagine. She pranced, danced and flitted around the stage (and 10 feet over the stage), playing and singing the part to perfection, always moving and active, arms never resting at her side. Then at the end of the scene, when the children (Wendy, John and Michael) rose into the air with Peter Pan, it was impressive enough to draw cheers from the audience.

The Darling nursery set was notable for its detail and realism, extending the width of the stage. But that was nothing in comparison to the sets that followed. The first colorful Neverland set was accented by impressive color-filled projections, and as the action began, we were treated to an interlude that introduced the 3 principal denizens of Neverland. First, there were 14 dancing Indians led by the talented Aubrey Engstrom as Tiger Lily. They were chased off by a mob of pirates, who in turn were chased off by an actor crawling across the stage in a magnificent crocodile costume. And this was followed by the introduction of the 6 principal “lost boys”  a wonderfully rowdy group of kids.

These introductions set off a string of hijinks that amounted to nonstop entertainment, as the 3 groups performed separately and interacted with one another. The Indians appeared with their characteristic choreography. The unpredictable Pirates then took up a formation to perform a group tango, then (later) a gavotte  complete with musical instruments. I have to add that the costuming of the pirates was a riot of creativity  none was dressed like any other, and what a ragtag, outrageous group they were!

All this leads to the principal pirate, Captain Hook, played by Zach Wilson. I dread the countdown of years until the 18-year-old Zach turns 20 because I have seen him perform since he was half of his current height, all the while cultivating professional-level skills as singer, dancer and actor  not to mention his brilliant projections. He was perfect in this role as Mr. Darling and Captain Hook, with impeccable comic instincts that began when he entered the stage to the boos of the audience and responded, “I haven’t done anything yet!” (I should note that this was Zach’s third time to perform in Peter Pan.  In EDMT’s 2006 production he played the character of Michael, then Mr. Smee in 2013.)

As this show went forward, it felt like the choreography never stopped: there was one creative number after another  never the same and never boring. In many of the scenes, the stage seemed packed with Indians, Pirates and Lost Boys (60 or more kids?)  singing and moving in their complicated routines. I scanned the individual faces of performers of all ages  one as young as 7  and what I saw was smiles of confidence and a total commitment to what they were doing, many with a routine unique to themselves. Each was animated and obviously having a great time.  And it struck me that each one of these kids had the spirit of an entertainer, pouring out energy and joy that captivated all of us in the audience, from the many children to the oldest adults.

Not only was this show well acted, danced and sung, it was well written. And the dialog and comic situations often had me and those around me laughing out loud. One of my favorite moments was when the Lost Boys were sitting around Wendy for story time. Someone asked her to “Tell us the ending of Cinderella!” Answer: “And they lived happily ever after,” to which 20 kids stood and cheered. Then “Tell us the ending of Snow While.” Same result. Then someone said “Tell us the ending of Hamlet!” The children in the audience didn’t get this joke, of course, but we adults loved it.

As in so many previous EDMT shows, the genius of Director Debbie Wilson was on display here  as was the enormous creativity of her daughter, Choreographer Anjie Rose Wilson, Vocal Director Jennifer Wittmayer and Costume Designer Karen McConnell. Of the whole creative team Debbie says in her introduction, complimenting her creative staff: “You are so willing to think outside the box that there is no box.” The result of the efforts of these true professionals, plus the energy, commitment, and talent of dozens of young performers made this a show that constantly absorbed your attention and was delightful from beginning to end. There’s the famous moment at the end of Act Two when Tinkerbell has drunk poison and is expiring. Peter Pan, knowing that fairies are kept alive when people believe in them, begs the audience to clap if they believe in fairies. Clapping?  No one around me hesitated for a second, though the little girl in front of me was the most enthusiastic in her response.

Maybe you’ve seen Peter Pan before, as I did when I saw Mary Martin play the title role on TV in 1955 (I was a very young child, mind you). But trust me, you’ve never seen a Peter Pan like this one  full of wonderful choreography and staging that is fresh, well acted and well sung  and completely engaging from beginning to end.

2018 Peter Pan cast list