Opening with a promise of magical adventure, Red Deer College theatre studies’ production of Peter Pan hits the mark in most ways. Shows run tonight through Dec. 1 with curtain at 7:30 p.m. There is also a matinee on Dec. 1 at 1 p.m.
Penned by J.M. Barrie, the tale, directed by Thomas Usher, is universally recognized for its charming, magical feel. Kids and adults alike get swept up in the story, about a London family whose children embark on an adventure in mysterious Neverland.
When Mr. and Mrs. Darling go out for the evening, an unexpected adventure ensues as the children fall asleep. Peter Pan, who can fly with fairies, fight like a pirate, swim with mermaids and crow with abandon appears. The kids literally ‘fly’ out the nursery window on an unforgettable adventure.
Neverland turns out to be a mystical island where a person never grows up. But before the children can return home, they are captured by Captain Hook and his band of followers.
For the most part, the production works nicely. The cast is terrific, especially Brooke Dalton as Peter Pan. She lights up every single scene she is in with her bright, expressive interpretation of the character. The children are also fabulous – Jennifer Engler as Wendy, Halee Pierog as Michael and Brayden Scobie as John. Each capture the innocence, wonderment and excitement that are intrinsic parts of being a child. The parents, Cassy Johnston and Glenndl Miguel (who also play the parts of Tiger Lilly and Hook respectively) are also really enjoyable to watch. And Dylan Hopkins does a delightful job as the very responsible family dog Nana.
Opening night is, in my view, not always the best night to judge the merits of a show.
Timing can lag, props may not work as smoothly as planned, nerves may be a bit frazzled. Some of those problems were evident. But there was also the matter of pacing – things start with a bang as the show opens. We are drawn into the Edwardian feel of the Darling’s home, we are introduced to the loving family. Peter Pan makes a magical entrance with Tinkerbell. The set, designed by Colin Winslow, makes everything accessible and believable from the nursery to Neverland.
Angela Dale has also done wonders with costume design, covering the feel and formalities of 1904 London to the colour of Neverland.
Then oddly, when we arrive at Neverland, things don’t feel magical. The play stalls at this point in overlong scenes, stretches of dialogue and little to really grab the audience and pull them in. The sense of wonder and promise evident at the play’s beginning was impeded by gaps of time passing with not much going on to really engage the audience.
Fortunately, the energy kicks in following intermission as the kids face off against Hook, and the play winds its way to a close back home in London.
So aside from some lengthy stretches and pacing snags, the show is well done – Usher certainly knows how to get his actors serious about doing their best. Each performance is great. And again, not enough can be said about Dalton’s approach to capturing the fun and the essence of Peter Pan – the child who resolutely opts for boyhood and the promise of non-stop adventure it brings.
Tickets are available at the Black Knight Ticket Centre by calling 403-755-6626 or visiting bkticketcentre.ca.