Underlying Meanings | “Peter Pan” @ Cabrillo Music Theatre / 5☆ Theatricals

Peter Pan (Cabrillo Music Theatre)Cabrillo UserpicHatred of Women. As I start writing this, news of the new Dr. Who has been released, and mysogyny is rampant in the comment sections on the Internet. I mean, Hillary Clinton was one thing, but a female Time Lord.

Get over it. Grow up!

The reason I bring the subject up at all, however, is because I saw a show last night that made me think about a deep seated hatred of women — mothers in particular — from another boy that refused to grow up. I am, of course, talking about Peter Pan (and I don’t mean the peanut butter). Peter’s hatred of mothers — his deep seated mistrust of them and desire to inflict regular pain on them by stealing their children — has been brought to mind regarding this story every since I saw the Blank Theatre production of Peter Pan – The Boy That Hated Mothers. That made me look at the boy quite differently. Gone were the days of innocence brought upon by the famous Mary Martin TV production of the musical.

However, until last night, I actually can’t recall having seen the actual stage musical … on stage. I’d seen the origin story of the story, of course, as well as the origin story of the author. I’d see both the 1960 original TV version and the recent politically-corrected and lengthened remake. But the actual stage version…. I hadn’t seen it. When Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) announced their season I was intrigued — and I wondered if in face I would see the original, or whether the updated TV version was now the only version licensed.

The answer: It was the original version being licensed with only one PC change (the word “redskins” was dropped in favor of “warriors”), meaning the problematic portrayals (i.e., stereotypical “Indians” vs. respectful “Native Americans”) were in the hands of the director.

And my verdict? What did I think of it?

The production itself was spectacular. The performances. The singing. The dancing. The theatricality. The fun. The spectacle. The magic. It was all there. There were scenes and songs I didn’t remember; it was different from yet similar to the 1960 broadcast. It erased the problematic memories of the recent Live! version.

But… But…

The story flaws remain. The presentation still hearkens to a level of stereotypical Indians — braves, savages, and war-paint. The presentation still is based around a child that has some deep psychological issues. In addition to, you guessed it, Peter Pan syndrome, there is that resentment towards mothers and adults. But you know, I see those things only when I have my “adult” hat on. Taking it off; being a child again — this remains a magical fun musical. Alas, the world forces us to grow up. But we can be children, and sometimes set aside our problems, when we go to a large building, often in a central part of a city, and sit together in the dark with lots of other people, all of whom have paid a great deal of money to be there, and just… imagine.

Oh, and for those that can’t get over the fact that Peter Pan, a boy, is played by a girl: GET OVER IT. Just think of Peter Pan as the ultimate Time Lord.

At this point, I would normally give you a synopsis of the story. But, c’mon, who doesn’t know the story of Peter Pan? A boy who refuses to grow up, who together with a fairy who loves the boy in a way that fairies  shouldn’t love boys, kidnaps the children of a family. He takes them, after performing some mindwashing, to an island where they get to play with poison and swords and fight pirates, keeping them out of communication with their parents. He fights a local Native American tribe, and after saving their leader, makes friends with the tribe. He then refuses to listen to a voice of sanity, lets a fairy get poisoned to the point of near death (only to be saved by breaking the fourth wall), and lets innocent children be captured and threatened with death. He then fights the pirates, wins, throws the captain overboard, and then burdens a family in their moment of relief at getting their children back with a significant number of additional mouths to feed. Oh, he then comes back years later and takes away the daughter of the woman he once called “mother”.

You thought the story was something different? Perhaps this?

Seriously, though, to give credit where credit is due: Peter Pan is the 1954 musical version based on the play by Sir J. M Barrie, with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh and music by Moose Charlap, with additional lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and additional music by Jule Styne, and original choreography by Jerome Robbins, with proceeds from the licensing still going to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London.  With those credits, it isn’t a bad show at all. I just pull your leg — perhaps overly so, which is in the spirit of the show.

Peter Pan Cast (Cabrillo)The Cabrillo production of Peter Pan is simply outstanding. Under the direction of Yvette Lawrence (FB) and with choreography by Cheryl Baxter (FB), magic is created by the cast and crew. These production leads knew how to bring out the best in their cast, how to keep and make the playfulness in the story come out on stage, and how, simply to have fun.

In the lead position as Peter Pan, Carly Bracco (FB) has fun with the role. To my eyes, she was quite a boyish, impish, and strong Peter. I never cared for the lilt of Mary Martin, and have only a vague recollection of Sandy Duncan. Allison Williams was far too reserved in her portrayal. Bracco captures the right amount of boy — perhaps tomboy — in the character. Playful, petulant, flighty. All captured well, combined with a very strong singing voice and great dance moves.

Playing against her as Mr. Darling / Captain Hook was Gregory North (FB). As Mr. Darling, the role calls for a modicum of measured bluff and bravado. But as Hook, ah, as Hook, that is where North shines. This is a role that calls for measured and controlled over-acting, of chewing scenery and the pirate crew around you, of, in essence, playing as strong at the stereotype of a pirate as one can. North nails that person perfectly, and combines it with marvelous singing and performance. He is a delight to watch.

The Darling children are portrayed by Sarah Miller-Crews (FB) as Wendy, Micah Meyers as John, and Luke Pryor as Michael. All are spectacular. I’d like to particularly call out Miller-Crews lovely voice on “Distant Melody,” and Pryor’s remarkable dancing in Ugg-a-Wugg.

I noted earlier that, unlike the 1954 version, the character Liza does not come to Neverland. Perhaps that is because, similar to Mr. Darling, they cast the actor in a different role in Neverland. In this case, Brittany Bentley (FB), who portrays Liza, also portrays Tiger Lily. As with Hook, it is in Neverland that Bentley shines.  This time, it isn’t by overacting — it is by dance. From the moment of her Cirque de Soleil entrance as Tiger Lily thought her amazing dances throughout, she is just a joy to watch.

Turning now to some of the various named ensemble types, starting with the pirates. These are great comic roles, and the team just excels at them — particularly Justin Michael Wilcox (FB)’s Smee. From the Mezzanine, where I was sitting, it was hard to tell them apart, but there was loads of play, athleticism, gymnastics, and just great dance and fun.

Turning to the Lost Boys: As a group they were spectacular. Strong singing, strong dancing, strong gymnastics, and most importantly, strong play.

Lastly, Angela Baumgardner (FB) played Mrs. Darling/Adult Wendy (and presumably the narrator).

What distinguished a Cabrillo production from any other production is the large and outstanding ensembles they assemble, especially in the quality of their dance. This show was no exception. The ensemble consisted of: Claudia Baffo (FB) [Indian]; Mackinnley Balleweg [Lost Boy]; John Paul Batista (FB) [Indian]; Brigid Benson (FB) [Indian]; Aaron Camitses (FB) [Twin #1]; Ethan Daniel Corbett (FB★; FB) [Starkey]; Luca de la Peña [Lost Boy]; Natalie Esposito (FB) [Indian]; Shannon Gerrity (FB) [Twin #2]; Kevin Gilmond (FB) [Cecco]; Veronica Gutierrez (FB) [Indian, Dance Captain]; Diane Huber (FB) [Mermaid]; Evin Johnson (FB)  [Indian]; Ty Koeller (FB) [Indian]; Joey Langford (FB) [Tootles]; Sharon Logan (FB) [Indian]; Calista Loter (FB) [Indian]; Natalie MacDonald (FB) [Lost Boy]; Missy Marion (FB) [Nana, Crocodile]; Nathaniel Mark (FB) [Lost Boy]; Andrew Metzger (FB) [Noodler, Scottish Pirate]; Alyssa Noto (FB) [Lost Boy]; Charles Platt (FB) [Turkish Pirate]; Tanner Redman (FB) [Bill Jukes]; Shanta’ Marie Robinson (FB) [Nibs]; Brandon Root (FB) [Algerian Pirate]; Jessie Sherman (FB) [Curly]; Anthony Sorrells (FB) [Indian]; Landen Starkman (FB) [Pirate]; Gabriel Taibi (FB) [Slightly]; Ashley Kiele Thomas (FB) [Indian]; Taylor Lynda Thomas (FB) [Los Boy]; Abigail May Thompson [Jane]; Riley Way [Lost Boy];  and Jater Webb (FB).

No credit was provided for Tinkerbell. I preferred the days when they had to be imaginative with her, instead of playing confuse-a-cat with a laser pointer.

Understudies: Brittany Bentley (FB) – Peter Pan; Ethan Daniel Corbett (FB★; FB)  – Mr. Darling/Captain Hook;  Natalie MacDonald (FB) – Wendy Darling; Nathaniel Mark – John Darling; Taylor Lynda Thomas (FB) – Michael Darling; Diane Huber (FB) – Mrs. Darling.

Music was provided by the Cabrillo Music Theatre Orchestra, under the musical direction of Dan Redfield/FB, who served as conductor. The orchestra consisted of Gary Rautenberg (FB) [Flute, Piccolo, Bariton Sax]; Ian Dahlberg (FB) [Oboe; English Horn; Flute 2]; Darryl Tanikawa (FB) [Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Tenor Sax]; Bill Barrett [Trumpet I, Piccolo Trumpet]; Mike Davis [Trumpet II]; Michael Fortunato (FB) [Trumpet III]; Jennifer Bliman (FB) [Horn]; June Satton (FB) [Trombone]; Sharon Cooper [Violin]; Rachel Coosaia (FB) [Cello]; Chris Kimbler (FB) [Keyboard I]; Tom Griffin (FB) [Keyboard II]; Lloyd Cooper (FB) [Keyboard III]; Elaine Litster [Harp]; Shane Harry/FB [Double String Bass]; and Alan Peck [Set Drums, Percussion]. The orchestra was produced by Tanikawa Artists Management LLC.

Turning to the production side of the show: The scenery was designed by John Iacovelli (FB), and was provided by McCoy Rigby Entertainment (FB) (together with the costumes (designed by Shigeru Yaji), and any props that weren’t designed by Alex Choate (FB).  Add to this the hair and wig design of Jim Belcher. The total package worked quite well, especially in the costuming for the lost boys and the pirates, and the hiding of the flying harnesses. As for the costumes of the Indians, well, lets just say they fit the stereotype well, but in this area this show is not known for cultural sensitivity. Lighting and sound design were by CMT regulars Christina L. Munich (FB) [lighting] and Jonathan Burke (FB) [sound]. Flying effects were by Zfx, Inc (FB), who also win the award for best bio. After all, “They don’t wake up and put their pans on one leg at a time like the other guys. They wrap themselves in kilts and stride boldly out into the world.” Other production credits: Jack Allaway, Technical Director; Talia Krispel (FB), Production Stage Manager; Richard Storrs (FB), Marketing Director; David Elzer/Demand PR, Press Representative; and Will North (FB), Managing Director.

There is one more weekend to see Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) [and one more week to see it as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), see below]. Tickets are available at the Cabrillo Box Office Online; or you can call the Kavli box office. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

To explain the last parenthetical: At the beginning of last night’s show, Managing Director Will North announced that Cabrillo Music Theatre was no more. It wasn’t going away, no shows were changing; the upcoming season was unchanged. However, they were changing their name to 5 Star Theatricals. The reason for this was unclear. Was it to disassociate themselves from the horrid Theatre League productions, or the financial problems of the past? Probably not. The thinking seems to be more that it is to broaden their producing horizons to plays and other events, and to possibly increase their geographic reach (touring 5-Star productions on a regional circuit, perhaps). Whatever the reason, I think the timing is bad, especially after they printed up all the specialty material with the Cabrillo logo. The name has loads of goodwill; just go to Cabrillo Theatricals and be done with it. That’s my 2c. Alas, they don’t have a website up for the new name.


Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) (well, make that 5 Stars Theatricals (FB)), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

Next weekend brings Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB). August starts with Brian Setzer at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We are also squeezing in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast (you can contribute to the production here). The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB).

I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). October is also filling up quickly, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love — also at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), and a hold for Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking into November, we have The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB), the Nottingham (FB) and Tumbleweed (FB) Festivals, a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), and HOLDs for Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) and Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.