Squeeze your eyes shut tight, feel that pinch of pixie dust and take off in flight to the magical place where fairies are born from children’s laughter and no little boy must ever grow up. That joyful spirit of everlasting youth was certainly present among the cast of Peter Pan, a delightful musical that literally soared to new heights at George C. Marshall High School.
Adapted from J.M. Barrie’s famous children’s story Peter and Wendy, this 1954 musical opened on Broadway starring Mary Martin and featuring music from famed composer Jule Styne. The musical does not stray far from Barrie’s traditional tale, telling of the magical evening when the young Darling children awaken to a remarkable boy named Peter Pan, whose thrilling adventures in Neverland excite kids of all ages.
Staying true to an archaic script is a challenge, but Marshall replicated the most difficult elements with great success. Whether it was complex choreography by Kat Porcell and Michael Burin, using flywires to take the cast into the air, or utilizing the unedited original wording, Marshall certainly put on an authentic production.
The joie de vivre of Ellen Chapin’s enthusiastic Peter Pan was infectious; she mastered the part with every scrunched-up facial expression and sprightly gesture. Chapin’s harmonious vocal presence was a highlight of Marshall’s production, showcased most vividly in songs such as “I Gotta Crow” and “Neverland.” The subtlety in Scott Anderson’s portrayal of legendary scoundrel Captain Hook caused bursts of laughter to shine through in villainous lines.
Throughout the whirlwind journey, down-to-earth Wendy, played by Meara O’Malley, chose to grow up and mature. O’Malley displayed a great range of expression and poise onstage, evolving from a bubbly, girlish presence to a more stern and matronly adolescent. Ever the faithful companion, Hook’s right-hand man Smee (Keith Boylan) used many memorable comic antics. Other unforgettable characters include Tiger Lilly (Allie Rosenbluth), Mr. Darling (Robin Crigler) and Slightly (Orla Conway).
The ensemble dynamic at Marshall had high energy and excitement, though sometimes the stage seemed too crowded and chaotic, which distracted from action-packed moments.
Deserving great accolades is Marshall’s props and effects crew. The use of flying effects is extremely difficult, but the almost flawless flights added to the magic of the show. Large props, like a huge crocodile that slithered into scenes, also added to the thrilling feel. The commendable set featured many large and moveable pieces and cleverly incorporated a trap door. Lighting kept pace with the show, especially on a vibrant cyclorama, overshadowing somewhat inconsistent microphone sound quality.
When one truly believes, it is possible to be whisked off to Neverland. Taking an entire audience might seem an unattainable feat, but Marshall’s lively production flew high enough to prove that “Peter Pan is the sun, the moon, and the stars!”
• Julia Katz is a student at McLean High School and a member of the Cappies Critics and Awards program.