In OES’ Peter Pan program, director David Gomes says, “It’s easy to think of Peter Pan as a story about a magical child, Neverland, Pirates, and Indians. All of these elements are obviously in the show, but they aren’t what the show is about…. I came to believe the story of Peter Pan is about the joys and fears of growing up.” The themes of growing up, responsibility, and leadership are present throughout the play in the OES all-school musical version, but it immersed us in the story of a magical child who whisks children off to a magical place. The OES performance was energetic, heartwarming, exciting, funny, and a little dark, and despite being shown in the great hall instead of an actual theater, it might just have been the best all-school musical yet.
Georgia Thomas (Peter Pan) was stellar in the title role, never trying too hard to act like a boy and yet embodying the knowing-more-than-he-lets-on Peter. Roz Sullivan-Lovett balanced the stubbly swag of Captain Hook with a softer, more relatable side. The “Mysterious Lady” song, where Pan pretended to be a lady to woo Captain Hook, features Georgia and Roz perfectly parroting operatic melodies. Georgia’s singing voice was as sweet and soothing as the bottle of honey she kept in her backpack, borrowing from and improving on her siren-like performance as Glinda in the last all-school musical, The Wizard of Oz. Their sword fight was exciting and well-choreographed. Isabella Waldron gave Wendy a touch of maturity and a touch of childishness, a balance fit for the make-believe mother of the lost boys. Peter Langley had a lengthy bit part where he played, well, himself. He and Colesie Tharp (a Pre-K teacher) were the only non-student actors, but gave their roles the lightness needed to fit in with the children around them. I’m not quite sure what Cara Drinkward’s maid/mother nature character was, but she played it perfectly. Maya Fernandez and Emma Fergusen, the only freshmen actors, led the lost boys with enthusiasm and (according to Harper) “spunk”. Roz’s supporting cast of pirates had great chemistry and were really entertaining, especially in Hook’s tango, which was one of the best-choreographed musical numbers. Everett Pearson made a great, ever-optimistic Smee to counter Roz’s misanthropic Hook. Copter’s death scene was the greatest single moment in the play (whoops, spoilers). Emily Kennedy, Clara Collins, and Jake Packard gave the rest of the pirates a sense of swashbuckling fun (and a little bit of fear factor). The indians, led by Isabel Riddick as Tiger Lily, avoided any accusations of racism and added an interesting third party to the basic pirates-lost boys fight. The other indians, Calla Slayton, Jacqui Busick, Lexy Tracy, and Erin Howell, don’t get many lines but worked well with the directions and shouts/hollers they were given. Their song with the lost boys, “Ugg-a-Wugg” is the most purely cheerful song in the play (I think, unless I missed something sinister). The middle and lower school members of the cast were well-trained and played their roles with gusto.
The stagecraft crew was on their A-game in making this stage and setting up the lights. The glow-paint hieroglyphics were awesome the first time the black lights turn on, and were a great visual sign of the change in location (from London to Neverland). The set is pretty cool- they made great use of the trap doors for people to climb in and out of the stage, and the replaceable back railings aided the scene changes. Some of the best stunts were when people fall off the back of the stage (onto the mats). Scene changes were concise and efficient, led by the lead stagehand Jack Halsey. Lighting by Tyler Orr was artistic and timely, and Zach Levis hit his cues on the soundboard. I didn’t even notice stage manager Harper Hayes and assistant stage managers Sophia Anderson and Austin Goldsmith, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Whatever their jobs were, they did them well. The rest of the stage craft tech crew worked well, this being a harder task than usual because it was an all-school production. I have to give special mention to the part where Peter Pan, Wendy, John and Michael flew- I won’t spoil how they did it, but it was executed well. Quick props to the band- an above-average performance by an OES band, I would say. The play opened with a five-minute musical number just by the band, and it was pretty good. Seniors Katie Reinders on the violin and Rogina Hsia on the flute led the charge. Props to juniors Peter Graham on the trumpet, Carl Felstiner on the clarinet, and Sophie Chen on the piano and harp. Freshman Grant Thomas played the cello, and Lucas Liu was a maestro on his piano, playing the Tinkerbell’s tinkling tunes with ease.
We know Peter Pan as a Disney-fied kids movie, and even though at least a quarter of the audience Thursday night were lower schoolers, Gomes didn’t sanitize this play at take out its element of dark humor. One of the more upbeat songs, “I Won’t Grow Up”, is an ode to blind devotion to Peter Pan, painting him as more of a benevolent dictator. The song includes the lines “I will do what Peter tells me / And never ask him why!” “I won’t grow up! / No I promise that I won’t / I will stay a boy forever / And be banished if I don’t!” The play has an underlying layer of darkness that Gomes made all the more creepy by not emphasizing it. His favorite line in the play was when Hook says, “A holocaust of children, there is something grand in the idea!” A great kids movie/play can be enjoyed by people of all ages, and Peter Pan definitely was. Some of the jokes and subtext flew over the kids’ heads, but the action and playfulness made it great for the whole school. The show is over now, but congratulate the cast and crew on a job well done, and look forward to the last school play of the year, the One Acts.