The bottom line
Enthusiastic actors, magical flights through starry skies, pirates, sword fights and J.M. Barrie's original language are highlights of this Youth Theatre Northwest production of Peter Pan, which celebrates the theater's 30th anniversary.
Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up is an enchanting fantasy that deftly deals with J.M. Barrie’s tragic choice of whether to grow up like everyone else or remain a child stranded in Neverland. The Youth Theatre Northwest production is an adaptation by the Royal Shakespeare Company of the beloved tale of Peter, Wendy, Michael, John, Captain Hook and the Lost Boys.
Enthusiastic actors, ages 6-18, are skillfully directed by Kate Swenson to make a familiar story fresh. They fly through starry skies while dangling from silks, swim in a magical lagoon, sword fight and play let’s pretend.
In celebration of Youth Theatre Northwest's 30th anniversary, student storytellers (Caroline Atkinson, Patricia Vowles and Annika Evens) are joined by guests, including current and past YTN faculty members as well as YTN alumni, some of whom were in YTN’s original production of Peter Pan in 2005.
Writers John Caird and Trevor Nunn said they based their 1982 adaptation on a wide range of Barrie's original source material, and strove to restore his original, poetic language. Barrie's authorial mien is evident in the narration, which is whimsical and ironic, and speaks as clearly to adults as to children.
The interplay between Peter Pan and Wendy is wonderful. Connor McKenna’s Peter Pan is delightfully determined to never grow up. He jigs joyfully after Wendy sews on his shadow, is petulant when she makes him play the Lost Boys’ father, and heroic when battling pirates. Miranda Johnson’s Wendy Darling is a no-nonsense mother to the Lost Boys, and would be handy to have around when there’s homework to be done. In the final scene, she trades her little girl’s nightgown for an elegant gown, and gracefully becomes a grownup.
Max Gralpois adroitly plays the peculiar Mr. Darling, and Hannah Stewart is his loving, weary wife. The couple’s unusual nurse for the children is Nana the dog, and Sophie Kelly-Hedrick romps and woofs through the role with such affection that this seems quite reasonable.
Claire Alderman dazzles as Tinker Bell. She speaks a lilting language only Peter understands, and does artful flips and splits on the aerial silks. When her light begins to dim, if you believe in fairies be sure to clap LOUDLY to save her life!
Neverland is not only magical, but dangerous. No one is safe while pirate Captain Hook, ominously played by Torin Record-Sand, is seeking revenge against Peter Pan for taking his arm and feeding it to the Crocodile.
Ultimately, the Darling children return home, of course, and the Lost Boys settle in with them. But not Peter. He reluctantly leaves Wendy, and flies back to Neverland where he can always be a boy and have fun.
Craig Wollam’s sets make Neverland a colorful dream. Doris Black’s costumes swirl with imagination, evoking shimmering mermaids, wind and Norse pirates.
Parents should know
The fright factor is low, but expect sword fights and a menacing Captain Hook. The Crocodile is a BIG puppet with BIG teeth. While there’s lots of action, Peter Pan may be too long for little ones.
If you go ...
Where and when: Youth Theatre Northwest, 8805 S.E. 40th Street, Mercer Island, through May 18.
When: Fridays-Saturday at 7 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $13-$17. For tickets call 206 232-4145, ext. 109 or buy online.
Suggested age: Best for ages 6 and over
Length: Just over two hours plus a 15-minute intermission
Tips: YTN will leave its home of 30 years on June 29. Read the farewell messages written on the lobby wall, and add a thought of your own. The theater has free parking. During intermission, $1 snacks and drinks are sold.