With the eye of a child

Peter Pan at Moonlight Stage

Robert J. Townsend and James Vasquez
  • Robert J. Townsend and James Vasquez

Clap your hands if you can believe it: the Tony Award–winning musical has flown into the hearts of San Diego theatergoers. This classic tale that whisks you away to where dreams are born and no one grows old was first produced on Broadway in 1954 and has been adapted many times since for film and stage.

Peter Pan

It all started with a play by early–20th-century British dramatist J. M. Barrie, who in 1904 penned Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. Barrie could not have known how popular the play would become. Nor could he have known that several long-lasting traditions were set in motion: two instances of double-casting (Mr. Darling/Captain Hook, and Nana the Dog/Crocodile); and the role of Peter played by a female.

A full-blown musical was produced in 1954 by Jerome Robbins, with music by Moose Charlap and Jule Styne, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Mary Martin headlined the piece and also starred in the televised version.

In Moonlight’s sprightly production, the talented Misty Cotton essays the role of Peter. She has a marvelous voice, strong and vibrant. But in manner and physical appearance she is much more Nellie Forbush than Peter Pan, her hairstyle of a feminine bob instead of a little boy’s pixie cut.

Robert J. Townsend plays a very refined Mr. Darling and is robustly, as well as elegantly, superb as Captain Hook. His body language and treatment of the songs “A Princely Scheme” and “Hook’s Waltz” are most effective.

As Wendy, Jill Townsend is wonderfully enthusiastic as she depicts a young girl who innocently loves to play at being “mother.” As Mister Smee, Hook’s wimpy lackey, James Vasquez shines with a particularly charming glow. His parts in “A Princely Scheme” and “Another Princely Scheme” are well worth watching.

As the oddly seductive Tiger Lily, Celeste Lanuza is an excellent dancer, but not so excellent an actress.

Elliot Weaver and Jacob Farry do well as John and Michael Darling, and Quinton Walker is a scream as Nana, the dog, and the fearsome Crocodile. As the Lost Boys, Drew Bradford, Joy Newbegin, Jessica Christman, Dylan Mulvaney, and Sarah Errington bring infectious energy.

Thanks to Carlos Mendoza’s choreography, this is one of the best-danced shows this reviewer has seen in a long time. The “I Gotta Crow” number, a great tribute to Native Americans, showcases an excellent drumming sequence that pretty much qualifies as a showstopper. Also some amazing choreography in “Ugg-A-Wugg” and “Hook’s Waltz.”

Shigeru Yaji’s inventive costumes hit just the right notes throughout. Special mention for Nana, the marvelously fuzzy, cuddly mammoth dog and a most realistic Crocodile that is just a bit tongue-in-cheek.

John Iacovelli’s set works hand-in-hand with Yves Tessier’s lighting for vivid stage pictures and effects. Chief among these are the marvelous scrims of Neverland’s jungle and the Darlings' oh-so-cozy nursery, with an impressive set of french doors that open onto a starry sky.

Steven Glaudini directs with a sure hand and a child’s eye for wonder.

Playing through August 6

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