THE BERKELEY PLAYHOUSE NEW PRODUCTION
OF PETER PAN IS FANTASTIC
A PERFECT FAMILY HOLIDAY TREAT
Peter Pan flies into the Julia Morgan stage this fall, and is sparkling fun with a first rate cast in an excellent production. Through Dec 6th at the Berkeley Playhouse. BPH continues their eighth season, staging a Broadway classic that first open here in the Bay Area at the Curran Theatre in SF in 1954. It then open on Broadway in Oct of that same year, based on the original play by J.M. Barrie, Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Music by Morris Charlap and Jule Styne. Founding Artistic Director, Elizabeth McKoy says: “Peter Pan is one of those shows that reminds us what is magical about going to the theatre, and that imagination is at the heart of what we do! It’s the seminal ‘all ages’ musical: it makes the child think about getting older and growing up, and the adult remember and cherish their youth. I directed this show in our first season, so it’s only fitting that our new Producing Artistic Director Daren A.C. Carollo should direct it as part of the first season he helped to shape from start to finish at the playhouse.” Director Carollo has assembled a powerhouse production team and a holiday gift for Bay Area families.
The moment Peter flies into the Darling family home the visually captivating first scene sets the tone for the charm of the show. The amazing Amanda Sylvia is the perfect boy destined to never grow up. Sylvia also masterfully brings life into Tinkerbell, at the point in the opening when Tink may die, the entire audience jumps and helps the fairy live. Sylvia easily creates that magic between reality and make believe, with her quadruple threat as a wonderful singer, actor, dancer and flying artist. Peter opens his kidnapping of the Darling family kids with “I’ve Gotta Crow” and “Never Never Land”. Peter, who is entirely his own creature is more complicated than you might remember he is clever and smart. The adventure first takes flight within the walls of the Darling children’s Victorian nursery, the children in the company are double cast. Opening night Lucy Swinson was an adventurous Wendy and her two brothers John and Michael are well played by the cute Max Lewis and Elijah Cooper. The scene stealer is the adorable seven year old Cooper who commands that Julia Morgan stage and never misses a beat in Matthew McCoys clever and fast choreography. McCoy keep the cast high stepping and his “I Won’t Grow Up” number is one of the many dance highlights.
The villain and nasty but lovable, Captain Hook who doubles as the childlike Mr. Darling is played by local favorite Tom Reardon and is excellent as ever. “Hook's Tango” is amusing and there is nothing funnier than a hoodwinking pirate plotting and planning ways to destroy Pan. The pirate cast is at their best, with the very funny Billy Raphael as bumbling Smee, Via Mae Fernandez, Ryan Meulpolder, Branden Thomas, and Allison Paraiso. The Lost Boys scamper on the wonderful sets designed by Brian Watson, takes us from a well crafted Victorian bedroom - to Neverland a tropical island that transforms into an underground hideout and a decked out pirate ship, allowing each set to stand out individually. A favorite number by the Lost Boys is “Ugg a Wugg” the drum pounding energy combined with the island Warriors headed by Anya Absten as Tiger Lily.
Carollo keeps the 2 hour musical fast pace and teamed with Joel Roster to choreograph the wonderful chaotic fight scenes with the Pirates and the rough and tumble Lost Boys - they are fun and twisted as Reardon’s Hook shines in Mark Thomas light design. ZFX Flying team Daniel Hall, Theo Mongeau and Brandon Davis pull the wires for the amazing flight Pan and the kids pull off as they soar across the Berkeley Playhouse. The flight effects are well choreographed and are delightful to watch. The young actors swim in the air, and the youthful cast brought tons of excitement to their performance.
The orchestra under the direction of Tania Johnson has six wonderful musicians in the Neverland pit, that also match the talent of Taylor Gonzalez sound design since the pit doubled for the home of the Crocodile and that iconic ticking clock. Gonzalez also adds some great sound effects as the some of the Pirates an ensemble walk the plank. Michael Patrick Wiles keeps the cast on pitch with skillful vocals. Amanda has a beautiful voice that filled the theatre even as she flew over the house. She captures the spirit of Peter Pan as the little boy in search of a mom. The performance is enduring and spirited and Wendy and Pan will warm your heart. The costumes fit the mood on the Lost Boys and Warriors and the Captian designed by Brooke Jennings, the children spend the show in their night clothes, but the Lost Boys are fit with the perfect rags. Jennings has Nana the family dog as furry and cuddly as she can be and brought to life by the talented Adam Neiman. Lost Boy “Slightly Soiled” has the cutest droopy pants look played by the young energetic David Rukin.
Lighting and sound designers Thomas and Gonzalez teamed together to skillfully produce amazing effects that brought Tinker Bell to life. A flickering green laser that races from one end of the stage to another, with lively chimes that brighten the illusion of her twinkle. The variety of songs and dance style across the gangs of pirates, Indians and lost boys who kept the families in the audience’s cheering. The kids were a glaze at opening night truly hypnotized by the fun of the show. A real test when most of the sold out crowd are kids who are candidly honest and restless, but not in this case. Peter Pan is the perfect way to open your family holiday season, the story brings back our childhood dreams and it is great to share that same NeverLand experience with your kids. No matter how many times we see Hook and Pan go at it - it is still a treat to see. Peter is in flight til Dec 6th and check out the many family discounts BPH offers - links below.
BERKELEY PLAYHOUSE PRESENTS
A darling family adventure
Based on play by Sir James M. Barrie
Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh ● Music by Morris "Moose" Charlap
Additional Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green ●
Additional Music by Jule Styne
Director DAREN A.C. CAROLLO
Choreographer MATTHEW McCOY
Vocal Director MICHAEL PATRICK WILES
Conductor TANIA JOHNSON
October 29–December 6, 2015
Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave. Berkeley.
Tickets Please call (510) 845-8542 x351 or visit berkeleyplayhouse.org.
Photos by Ben Krantz Studio.