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Paulanne Simmons

Paper Mill Playhouse's "Peter Pan" Is Something to Crow About

Peter Pan
Directed by Mark S. Hoebee
Paper Mill Playhouse
Brookside Drive, Milburn, NJ
Opened June 2, 2010
Wed. 7 p.m., Thurs. 1:30 & 7 p.m., Fri. 7 p.m., Sat. and Sun. 1:30 & 7 p.m.
Tickets: $25-$92, Student rush tickets: $20
Closes June 27, 2010
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons June 6, 2010

Nancy Anderson (Peter Pan). Photo by Kevin Sprague.

"Peter Pan," as conceived, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, may be the ultimate musical fantasy. Children fly through the air and land in strange territory. Siblings are cared for by a canine nanny. And middle-aged women play pre-adolescent boys.

In the 1954 Broadway production, Mary Martin, then 41, thrilled audiences as the mischievous and magical lad. In the current Paper Mill Playhouse staging, directed by Mark S. Hoebee and choreographed by Patti Colombo, the 40-year-old Nancy Anderson channels both Peter and Martin in a staging that holds its own with the classic original.

Peter's nemesis, the treacherous Captain Hook, is played by Broadway star Douglas Sills, who is just evil enough to delight little children and still sufficiently ironic to amuse adults. Unlike Anderson, Sills never gets to fly, but his suave mastery of his material is often the high note of the evening.

From Left to Right: Douglas Sills (Captain Hook) and Nancy Anderson (Peter Pan). Photo by Kevin Sprague.

Hook has a partner is crime, Smee, ably played by John O'Creagh. But have no fear; Peter also has someone he can rely on, the fierce and loyal Tiger Lily (Jessica Lee Goldyn) who commands an entire tribe of Indians who share Neverland with the Lost Boys.

And of course the whole Darling family – Mr. Darling (Sills), Mrs. Darling (Glory Crampton), Wendy (Hayley Podschun), John Darling (Josh Pins) and Michael Darling (Jack Broderick/Lewis Grosso) – is just…well…darling.

Carolyn Leigh and Mark Charlap's score, with additional music by Jule Styne and additional lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, a masterpiece for its time and forever, is in excellent hands. Whose heart would not warm to "Tender Shepherd," soar with "I've Got to Crow" or beat a little faster with "I Won't Grow Up."?

From Left to Right: Nancy Anderson (Peter Pan) and Jessica Lee Goldyn (Tiger Lily). Photo by Kevin Sprague.

If the Indians and the pirates don't fly, they sure can dance. And Colombo has choreographed athletic movements that unashamedly express all the politically incorrect messages of the "manly" pirates and the "primitive" Indians. If you don't have a sense of humor, pick up one before going to see this brilliant recreation of 50s innocence.

"Peter Pan" opens with the purple and pinks of the Darling household. But overhead the night sky calls to adventure. One waits for the great windows to open and admit Peter.
In Neverland, scenic designer John Iacovelli changes the colors to earthy browns and greens. And finally, the pirates' ship is everyone's dream of swashbuckling swagger.

"Peter Pan" has everything young people need to feed their imaginations: Indians, pirates, children without their parents, swordfights and most importantly, the triumph of good over evil. Most probably it will be very young children who will shout out warnings to Peter and giggle at a few of the more obvious, physical jokes in the show. But certainly children will not be alone sitting on the age of their seats fighting the good fight with Peter.

There is a part of us all that refuses to grow up. Thank goodness!



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