‘Peter Pan’ soars at Kent-Trumbull

CHAMPION — “Peter Pan” simultaneously feels dated and contemporary.

Its portrayal of Native Americans very much is a product of when it was written (1954), enough so that Kent-Trumbull Summer Stock Artistic Director Eric Kildow includes a note about it in the Playbill.

Yet in these gender-fluid times, “Peter Pan” also is a musical where its male title character traditionally is played by a woman, and director Melanie Lucas (more out of necessity, I’m guessing, than to make a statement) also has females playing Lost Boys, Pirates, Indians and even John Darling in Summer Stock’s musical, which opened Thursday for a two-weekend run.

The production is a wonderful showcase for the talents of Sierra Boyle, a frequent performer on the Kent-Trumbull stage. The petite actor was born to play Peter Pan. She brings swagger and youthful arrogance to the character, as well as conveying the vulnerability of the boy who doesn’t want to grow up. He’s a child who can battle pirates, but he also is looking for a mother.

She displays a strong voice on songs like “I’ve Gotta Crow” and “Distant Melody,” and a fearlessness in the flying sequences.

Speaking of the flying sequences, the difficult technical element was executed with impressive skill. And Lucas found clever ways to use it, like having Peter Pan land on the blade of Captain Hook’s sword during a confrontation.

Less flashy effects, like the shifts in Leslie Brown’s lighting design that made Peter’s shadow loom large after Wendy “reattached” it also added to the magical quality of the production.

Lucas’ direction emphasizes the comedy in the script. Jacob Glosser and Robert Spain were a hilarious duo as Captain Hook and his bumbling sidekick Smee, respectively. Glosser gets a great entrance, lounging like a Roman emperor on cart pulled by his crew.

The dances of Tiger Lily (Patience Miles) and her Indian warriors, choreographed by Dana Warren-Tolios, generated big laughs. And costumes created by Eileen Janis Larson for the Darling’s nursemaid / dog Nana and Hook’s crocodile tormentor (both played by Yovani Martinez) complemented the whimsical tone of the show.

Not everything worked. Some of the chase / action sequences were busy but not particularly exciting, and some of the story’s more emotional scenes didn’t land with the impact they should.

And this may sound sacrilegious considering how beloved the show is and the pedigree of its creators (Morris Charlap, Jule Styne, Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden and Adolph Green), but it’s not a great score. I think the love for the show has more to do with the affection for the source material by J.M. Barrie than this adaptation.

Considering its enduring popularity, I’m probably in the minority. And Kent-Trumbull’s production is good enough to make audiences believe that a boy can fly and that fairies do exist.

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