J.M. Barrie’s classic story of Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t grow up, began life as a play in 1904, went under several different names, and has morphed into a novel and a Broadway stage musical and a few movies. Peter Pan & Wendy, a world premiere adapted by Lillian White and Burning Coal Theatre Company and directed by White, is playing now through Sunday, Dec. 17th, in the Murphey School Auditorium, near Raleigh, NC’s Historic Oakwood section.
White’s direction is brilliant. The transition from the Darlings’ home in Bloomsbury to the house that the Lost Boys of Neverland build for Wendy is dramatic and almost magical, it is so carefully designed and accomplished. Elizabeth Newton’s set design includes a swimmable ocean that demonstrates her wizardry.
In this version of Peter Pan; or, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, there is no swinging from wires above, these children really fly, thanks to the choreography of Robin Harris, who also takes credit for the Mermaid’s beautiful dance in the ocean.
Much of the scenic pleasure of the show is a result of Katie Werlin’s costume designs. Peter Pan and Tinker Bell were both decked out in what we might easily imagine to be Neverlandish dress. Mr. Darling’s formal demeanor is strongly reinforced by his suit; and in all, the costumes fit the characters realistically.
Alec Silver, who has choreographed humorous but realistic-looking fights which add to the fun and also make us a bit uneasy, is incredibly athletic. Silver leaps, jumps, rolls and flies as Peter Pan, taking to the role as if born for it, and exuding the boyhood dream of never growing old in every line and motion.
Wendy, Jane’s mother and Peter’s fancy, is played by Shawn Morgenlander, transitioning from grown-up to young girl and back again with ease.
Ben Apple takes on the charming role of Nana, limited by having only one word to say, but managing to put a broad array of meanings and feelings into that one “woof.” He also doubles as Starkey, First Mate on the Jolly Roger pirate ship.
Mrs. Darling is played by Julie Oliver, who trades off as Captain Hook as well. The roles are distinctly dissimilar, and she is terrific in her ability to swap between the two. A ferocious and scary pirate and a loving wife and mother don’t make for easy work, but she makes the change look easy.
Mark Filiaci is marvelous as Mr. Darling, and he too doubles as a bad guy — the clock-ticking-crocodile. He excels in each role, first playing a nice, dignified husband, tender and deeply concerned that his children, and then playing the cold, hungry croc.
Tinker Bell, Jane, and Mermaid are all performed by Holly Holmes. As Tinker Bell, she skips lightly around the stage, daintily pantomiming her role, but showing great jealousy and heartbreak when Peter courts Wendy. Her Mermaid dance in the ocean is stunningly lithe and graceful. As Jane, she becomes a sweet ingénue.
The entire cast is excellent, and all performances are first rate. As an alternative to the usual holiday fare, we highly recommend bringing the family to this captivating show for children of all ages, and it includes some profound truths about the fear of aging and the need to grow up.
SECOND OPINION: Dec. 6th Durham, NC Indy Week review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 4 of 5 stars): https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/burning-coal-plumbs-the-strange-partially-formed-humanity-of-children-in-its-devised-peter-pan-and-wendy/Content?oid=9954541 and Nov. 29th mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/peter-pan-and-wendy/Event?oid=9840213; and Dec. 1st Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=8744. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Dec. 9th Triangle Review review by Dustin K. Britt, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/12/burning-coals-devised-peter-pan-wendy-is-beautiful-but-lacks-cohesion/.)
Burning Coal Theatre Company presents PETER PAN & WENDY, a world premiere adapted and directed by Lillian White, at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2, 2 p.m. Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7-9, 2 p.m. Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14-16, and 2 p.m. Dec. 17 at Murphey School Auditorium, 224 Polk St. Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.
TICKETS: $25 ($15 students, teachers, and active-duty military personnel and $20 seniors 65+), except “Pay-What-You-Can” Day on Sunday, Dec. 3rd, $5 Student Rush Tickets (sold at the door, 5 minutes before curtain), $10 Thursdays, and $15 per person for groups of 10 or more.
BOX OFFICE: 919-834-4001 or http://www.etix.com/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETCFkCrDAJ0.
2017-18 SEASON: http://burningcoal.org/season/.
NOTE 1:The 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3rd, show is a “Pay-What-You-Can” Performance.
NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 2 p.m. Sunday, Sunday, Dec. 3rd, performance.
Peter Pan; or, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up or Peter and Wendy (1904 play and 1911 novel): https://www.britannica.com/topic/Peter-Pan-play-by-Barrie (Encyclopædia Britannica) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_and_Wendy (Wikipedia).
Sir J.M. Barrie (Scottish actor, dramatist, and novelist, nee James Matthew Barrie, 1860-1937): https://www.britannica.com/biography/J-M-Barrie (Encyclopædia Britannica), http://jmbarrie.co.uk/ (Dafydd Brown’s fan site), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/james-m-barrie-6613 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0057381/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._M._Barrie (Wikipedia).
Lillian White (adapter and director): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006929595739 (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.