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A CurtainUp Review
Peter and Wendy
By Elyse Sommer
Liza Lorwin's version of the saga of the flying boy whose name has become a synonym for the eternal spirit of youthful belief, captures the humor and adventure without skirting the more adult themes of the pain of abandonment, the hovering shadow of aging and death. A single narrator, the remarkable Karen Kandel, manages to use her crystal clear voice to evoke the unique personalities of all the characters. While Kandel is the only "real" person on stage, she is surrounded by the seven draped in white puppeteers (even their faces are covered) who gracefully animate their artful puppets: from the adorable Peter who never loses his first teeth, to a deliciously quirky Captain Hook whose nemesis, the Crocodile morphs right on stage from the cuddly dog-nursemaid, Nana. The simple scenery consists of props from the Darling children's nursery: one of the books becomes a giant popup, the toy chest holds the lost boys and the stuffed toys, including one which becomes Nana and the bed sheets become the sails of the pirate ship.
Under Lee Breuer's direction, we see all the theatrical variations and inventiveness of contemporary puppetry, including some ingenious shadow puppetry and choreography that includes a hilarious tango by the croocodile and its creator.
To add to the visual pleasures, there's the enjoyable music played by the musicians in the balcony boxes at either side of the stage, with numerous gorgeous sung solos by Lisa Mosacatiello . Lilting Celtic airs dominate John Cunningham's music and lyrics (abetted by additional lyrics from Mr. Breuer, Ms. Lorwin and Barrie).
The adaptation includes what amounts to the epilogue of Barrie's novel, which takes us beyond the return of Wendy and her brothers to their London nursery to a grownup Wendy, no longer airborne, but passing her adventurous spirit on to her little daughter. Nice as it is to see Barrie's writing honored to the very end, it makes for a rather too drawn out ending. Perhaps it is the fact that this adds up to two and a half hours that accounts for the e New Victory's recommendation not to bring children under eleven. Except for the show's length I think this is a conservative estimate and I would would not hesitate to bring a nine or ten year old. This Peter and Wendy, with its sensitive realization of life with all its happy and not so happy possibilities, is a triumph of the imagination for anyone from nine to ninety.
LINKS TO PLAYS MENTIONED
Peter Pan, the Musical
The Green Bird, during its Broadway run
The Lion King
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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