Growing up, up, and away

With its fresh book and music, NW Children's Theater's "Peter Pan" flies into a happy place for young audiences and their grownups, too

This is probably not the first time you have heard of Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up. It might not be the first time you will see his tale on stage. In fact, it might not be the first Northwest Children’s Theatre production of it, since it’s somewhat of a flagship for the 25-year-old theater company.

In fact, this is the seventh time the company’s mounted Peter Pan over the years, including this same adaptation – a NWCT commission – in 2012 and its followup in 2013. The good news is that the children in your life have likely not seen as many productions of Peter Pan as you have, and the universal story’s magic and wonder will win them over. The other boon for the grownups in the audience is that even if you have seen another Peter Pan (or several), this one has plenty to offer.

Grace Malloy as Wendy and Peter Thompson as Peter Pan. Photo © David Kinder 2018

For starters, it’s a new adaptation – both book (Milo Mowery) and music (Rodolfo Ortega) – that you haven’t seen if you didn’t catch the 2013 production. The songs are catchy and performed well by all in this cast. And the script is terrific, ratcheting up the preposterousness of Captain Hook and his pirates so kids are still a little scared – but most of the squeals are from delight.

And that cast in general is another big checkmark in the “go see this” column. The kids in the major roles of Peter (Ryder Thompson) and Wendy (Grace Malloy) carry the play well, and the actors playing the Lost Boys, who are mostly female – a really nice change, for the record – are all marvelous, with perfect comedic timing. They are: Justine Ball, Maya Hawks, Charlotte Sanders, and the lone male in the bunch – if you’re not counting Peter Pan – Elo Paulorinne. There is an especially funny moment where they introduce themselves and two of the “Boys” think they are the same person. A great way to show how truly lost these children are, and also a nod to how we might ignore minor stage roles.

The real acting stars here, though – in part due to that script, and partly due to their sheer talent – are the pirates: Stefano Iaboni as Starkey, Clara-Liis Hillier as Noodler (who also portrays Mrs. Darling and voices Tinkerbell) and, especially, Sam Burns as Cecco, Kevin-Michael Moore as Smee, and Andrés Alcalá (who shows real range to also play Mr. Darling) as an over-the-top Captain Hook. Burns and Moore bring the most belly laughs from the little ones, but Alcalá will be an adult favorite. He has plenty of winks and raised eyebrows to make grownups feel like we are in on all of the jokes our kiddos might not be getting.

Finally, a nod of admiration to the puppets designed by John Ellingson. This Peter Pan adaptation introduced puppets to NWCT, and Ellingson’s magnificent work then brought us The Starlings. These are not the puppets you remember from your childhood: They are lively, colorful, amazing feats of choreography and engineering, executed by a nimble cast of puppet ensemble members (Gabriela Giraldo, Clara King, Sinead Mooney, Max O’Hare, and Izzy Trujillo), who sing and dance and perform right on the stage while almost going unseen – quite a feat, as these are not costumes. They bring to life mermaids and a snipe and a big, scary, tick-tocking crocodile.

Ellingson directed this production, which went off on opening day without a hitch – including lots of kids flying and a wonderful way to depict Tinkerbell, which made her feel real without casting a human-sized actor as a fairy.

This is the final show of NWCT’s 25th season, a powerful way to end a historic season in which the company also announced it is looking for a new permanent home. That means this might be your last chance to see this fabulous Peter Pan adaptation in the wonderful space at Northwest Neighborhood Cultural Center, whose halls and stage NWCT has graced with so much joy for a quarter of a century.

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Northwest Children’s Theater’s Peter Pan continues through May 20. Ticket and schedule information here.

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