Peter Pan is back in a spectacular new production which heralds the arrival of Southern California’s most exciting new professional theater company—3-D Theatricals.

Ah, Peter Pan. Anyone growing up in the 1950s will certainly recall the three live TV broadcasts (1954, ‘55, & ‘56) of Mary Martin in her original Broadway role as the boy who vowed to never grow up.  1960s kids will remember the first videotaped version, again starring the legendary Miss Martin, initially broadcast in 1960 and rerun in ‘63 and ‘66.  If you came of age in the ‘70s or ‘80s, you may have seen Sandy Duncan as Peter either on Broadway or in your home town theater. For kids today, it’s Cathy Rigby who is synonymous Peter Pan, having headlined three Broadway productions, toured the U.S. again and again, and starred in a TV version later released on VHS and DVD. It’s the Rigby version that marks 3-D Theatricals’ first production, with two-time Ovation winner Dana Solimando directing and and re-staging Patti Colombo’s original Broadway choreography to perfection, and a sensational Shanna Marie Palmer in the title role.

What sets the 1954 Broadway adaptation apart from the many others that have come from Sir James Barrie’s 1904 original are its especially tuneful songs (about 70% with music by Moose Charlap, the other 30% by Jule Styne) and their clever, funny lyrics (by Carolyn Leigh with additional lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green). Barrie himself is credited for the sprightly, often tongue-in-cheek book, though since Sir James died seventeen years before Peter Pan’s Broadway opening, I’d guess that either its lyricists or Jerome Robbins, who “conceived, directed, and choreographed” the Broadway original, did some tinkering here and there.


It’s hard to imagine a better Peter Pan than the vivacious Palmer. In her Peter Pan costume, one of Sharell Martin’s great “built-from-scratch” designs, and her boyish blond wig, Palmer is absolutely convincing as a thirteen-year-old boy, imbuing the role with spunk and charm, and flying with the best of them. (The “flight choreography” makes those left-to-right, right-to-left moves look amazingly like the real thing.)  With Palmer as Peter, kids (and adults) in the audience will find it easy indeed to believe.

Just as casting a female actor as Peter has become a tradition rarely broken with, so it is expected that the actor playing Mr. Darling will return in Acts Two and Three as the dastardly Captain Hook. (What do Freudians make of that?)  Gregory North is marvelous, both as the very proper, by-the-book Victorian father and even more so  as the comically villainous Captain.  His Act Three “Hook’s Waltz,” in which the pirate laments the fact that whenever children play at Peter Pan, “they make the baby play Hook” is a particular treat.

The terrific cast assembled by 3-D Productions is a mixture of theatrical pros with dozens of professional credits to their names and up-and-coming triple threats, a number of whom are students in Cal State Fullerton’s much-touted Musical Theater Program.

Southland fave Tracy Lore brings warmth and her gorgeous soprano to Mrs. Darling, and the three Darling children couldn’t be more darling, from Jenny Swoish’s winning Wendy to Anthony Skillman’s spirited John and (especially) to Julia Massey’s adorable (and entirely believable) Michael.

In addition to Palmer as Peter and Massey as Michael, there is considerable other gender-bending in the cast.  All but one of the Lost Boys are played by young actresses, and a fine and frolicking bunch they are–Lindsay Sara Martin as Curly, Bety Le as Tootles, and the perfectly-in-sync Lexy Baeza and Tara Lynne Barr as a pair of Lost Boy twins.  Gavin Leatherwood, the sole Lost Boy boy, is a delightfully plucky Slightly Soiled. (That’s the “name” found pinned to his outfit when he was lost by his nanny and ended up in Neverland.)

A deliciously quirky Louis Pardo gets laughs galore as Smee, Captain Hook’s comic sidekick (and frequent dance partner), with great support by fellow pirates Andre Myers (Noodler), Michael Cavinder (Starkey), Bradley Carnation (Jukes), and Nico Ramirez (Cecco), Kevin Ling, Patrick Ortiz, Bobby Perino, and Kalen Sakima completing the outlaw band.

Alyssa Kennedy is a dance standout as Indian chief Tiger Lily (political correctness be damned), and is surrounded by a tribe of some of the best hoofers around–Kim Arnett, Carnation, Brittany Rose Hammond, Ling, Myers, Ortiz, Perino and Sakima.

And speaking of fancy foot moves, Ugg-A-Wugg is the most spectacular eight minutes of dancing I’ve seen since Matthew Bourne’s Stomp-inspired choreography in the recent British revival of My Fair Lady dazzled me at the Ahmanson.  The number pits Indians against Lost Boys in an acrobatic dance one-upmanship competition which ends up with every single one of them pounding on the floor with drumsticks in perfect unison–a sensational finish that inspires some of the loudest and longest audience cheers in memory.

Bringing other characters to vivid life are Hammond as Jane, Wendy’s grown-up daughter who appears in the Act 3 coda; Perino, inside a dog suit as enormous (and adorable) pet/nursemaid Nana; and Carnation and Perino alternating inside an ten-foot-long crocodile suit (equipped with skateboard wheels for rapid spinning) as Croc, Captain Hook’s tick-tocking enemy.

The production looks absolutely splendid.  John Iacovelli has adapted his 1998 Broadway sets for the smaller OC Pavilion stage and they are a Technicolor treat. Costume designer Martin has “built” the majority of her terrific costumes, the originals currently being used in Branson, MO, where Rigby is starring as Peter.  No wonder they look so fresh and bright.  Lighting by Jean-Yves Tessier and sound design by Julie Ferrin is the same outstanding work Musical Theatre West audiences have become accustomed to seeing and hearing in the pair’s many MTW productions.

Musical director Allen Everman conducts the very good Peter Pan orchestra, which has been divided into two halves, one up in the “box seat” area stage left and the other stage right providing honest-to-goodness stereo sound.

Last but definitely not least is the flying, every bit as thrilling to this longtime theatergoer as it will be to tiny tots first experiencing Peter Pan live on stage. John Hall & Associates are credited with “flying illusions,” and spectacular illusions they are!

3-D Theatricals is the brainchild and baby of Peter Pan co-director TJ Dawson, his siblings Daniel and Gretchen, and fellow thespian Kami Seymour.  With a season that tops any other to be produced and cast locally in 2010, 3-D Theatricals is set to be offering theater lovers both quality and quantity productions in the year ahead. If Peter Pan is any indication, 2010 is going to be a banner year for musical theater in beautiful downtown Santa Ana. (Mapquest it.  It’s not as far away as you may think, and well worth the drive.)

3-D Theatricals, OC Pavillion, 801 N. Main St., Santa Ana.

–Steven Stanley
December 4, 2009
Photos: Alysa Brennan

Comments are closed.