A Big, Beautiful “Peter Pan” at Wick Theatre
By Skip Sheffield
“Peter Pan” is the biggest, most complicated show presented to date at the Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. It has one of the simplest stories, and it is by far the most fun. It runs through Aug. 23 and it is not to be missed.
“I Won’t Grow Up” is Peter Pan in a nutshell. That is a signature song from the 1954 Broadway musical starring Mary Martin as Peter Pan and Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook. The tradition of having a small woman play Peter Pan dates all the way back to 1905, when Maude Adams originated the role in J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play.
Barrie expanded the story in a 1911 novel, and the world has been mad about Peter Pan ever since.
I never got to see Mary Martin live as Peter Pan, but I did see Sandy Duncan in the 1979 Broadway revival, and Cathy Rigby in the 1991 revival, which returned in 1998-1999.
Shannon Mari Mills, who understudied Cathy Rigby for two years, and played other roles in “Peter Pan,” is the Wick’s Peter Pan. Mills is a little woman with a big voice, athletic body and the engaging personality required of the role. She is matched with Robin Haynes in the dual role of the stuffy Mr. Darling and the comically inept villain, Capt. Hook.
To cut to the chase, the coolest thing about “Peter Pan” is the flying and the exuberant song that celebrates it. Peter (Mills) makes a grand entrance flying through an open window of the Darling home in early 20th century London. Peter has somehow lost his shadow, and it is up to the resourceful Wendy (Lindsay Bell) to sew it back on.
The Darling children John (Trevor Wayne) and Michael (Ryan Sell) are enchanted by the mysterious Peter, who encourages all three to “think lovely thoughts” and they will be able to fly. Fly they do. How they got all the rigging safely installed is part of Wick’s theatrical magic, under the music and stage direction of Michael Ursua. How they get rigged without the audience noticing is another wonder.
The second scene moves to Neverland, where Peter and his Lost Boys live. Neverland is a lovely place but fraught with peril. First there is the band of pirates, led by the foppish Capt. Hook with the equally inept first mate Smee (Wesley Slade). Then there is a large crocodile, which has already chomped off one of Hook’s hands. There is also a tribe of Indians who are actually pretty nice. Tiger Lily (Emily Tarallo) the nicest of them all.
The songs by Jule Styne are distinguished by lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The singers are accompanied by a recorded soundtrack. The show is already expensive enough without a live orchestra.
It’s hard not to feel nostalgic and a bit wistful after seeing “Peter Pan.” However, if you “think lovely thoughts” everything will be all right.
Tickets are $55. Call 561-995-2333 or go to www.thewick.org.