For those junior viewers discovering “Peter Pan” for the first time, the live stage is a great place to do so; for those long familiar with the story of the boy who refused to grow up, the Beef & Boards production is sure to produce a bit of nostalgia.
Peter Pan and his crew of lost boys live in Neverland, a magical island where children never age, in hopes of escaping the responsibility of adulthood. Pan recruits siblings Wendy, John and Michael Darling to join his unconventional family, but where would we be without a villain to intervene? Insert Pan’s nemesis, Captain Hook, and his gang of pirates, intent on kidnapping the whole lot of Pan’s crew and making them walk the plank.
The show gets off to a slow start but picks up steam when the mischievous Pan (Phebe Taylor) makes his first appearance. For those unfamiliar with the show, it’s important to mention that the impish sprite is typically played by a female, and Beef & Boards follows the tradition. Taylor is delightful, and no one can say she didn’t give her all to the role — a photograph accompanying her bio in the program shows a long-haired brunette, but she lopped off her locks for the part of the young boy.
There is plenty of appeal for young audiences, which will delight in the upbeat songs and slapstick comedy. They’ll also most certainly marvel at the fly rigging that lifts Pan and the trio of Darling siblings up and off to Neverland.
It’s impressive that Beef & Boards manages to fly the cast on such a small stage, though one of the show’s signature effects is also one of its weakest in this production.
Beef & Boards would have done well to invest in a professional crew to operate the system, which is manned by backstage cast members who are unable to avoid herky-jerky movements that distract from the action.
Pan’s in-flight choreography, especially during “Neverland” is cute but proves challenging when simultaneous singing is required. The at-times rather abrupt jerk of the lift did the actress no favors.
Similarly, a few moments of interwoven dance moves with the Darling children leave one mildly worried the lines are about to tangle.
The introduction of Tiger Lilly, the island of Neverland’s fair Indian maiden, and her tribe had the audience’s rapt attention, with some of the show’s best music, coupled with sharp choreography.
Hook and his pirates are appropriately ridiculous and a crowd favorite; their sneaky entrance set to the theme of “Mission: Impossible” — a bit of poetic license courtesy of the Beef & Boards band — is priceless.
The crew of lost boys performs well, though the harmony throughout the group’s musical numbers felt a bit strained. The cast makes great use of Beef & Boards space, and the audience is drawn in to the action by unexpected entrance points in and among the audience.
In short; don’t attend expecting a masterpiece; go for the fun and to remember what it was like to wish you never had to grow up. And bring the little ones. They’re in for a treat.
Noelle Steele is the editor of the Greenfield Reporter. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org