As its title implies, this musical production of the never-grow-up classic Peter Pan gives Wendy a more central role. The gist of the tale remains the same, but there are changes here and there to give it a fresh perspective.
The first thing I wondered before seeing the show was how they’d make Peter Pan fly. Turns out there are no ziplines or stringing up with wires, only a slight implication of flight through outstretched arms, moving lights, and video projections. But it really didn’t take away from the show in any way and avoids worry that the wires would break.
While the plot centers on young Wendy not wanting to grow up and her visit to Neverland (where no one grows up), seven adult actors and actresses play all the roles. Well, all the roles except for Tinkerbell. The diminutive fairy is played by a bunch of light bulbs about the size of a colored Christmas light. The bulbs are above the audience and on various parts of the stage. One bulb twinkles to indicate where Tinkerbell is while musical chimes are piped in. And though Peter Pan has been played by some famous females, a male steps into the role here.
In Neverland, Wendy, Peter Pan, and two Lost Boys outmaneuver Captain Hook and his dim-witted minion Smee. The scenes change quickly, with Princess Tiger Lilly — in tulle and leotard princess garb — joining the action. Ultimately, Wendy realizes that she wants to be back home and does want to grow up. My two boys, almost 4 and 8, were captivated throughout the show, including during the roughly dozen short songs.
There’s nothing too scary in the material. The few fight scenes involve exaggerated and slow sword movements (and anyone falling down is soon back on their feet). When a slingshot is fired, only a “boink” sound is heard and nothing is really shot. Imagination Stage recommends this show for ages 4 to 10, and I agree. My younger son followed the story (he had no previous exposure to Peter Pan) and did not get frightened. My older son was also entertained.
On several occasions, the audience gets to participate as a group, whether yelling an answer to a character’s question or clapping to revive Tinkerbell. The actors also make several trips through the aisles. There was some audience laughter at points in the show, mostly directed at the actor playing Smee, Michael John Casey. He has been in at least five other shows I’ve seen at Imagination Stage and always brings levity to any performance.
The clever costumes in this show stand out. Captain Hook’s wig is fashioned from thread spools. His handy arm can handle various attachments (including hook, toothbrush, and spatula). The actor playing the crocodile that haunts Captain Hook slides on his belly on wheels and sports small clocks as his eyes (the croc swallowed Hook’s hand after Peter Pan cut it off and wants to eat the rest of Hook; he also swallowed a clock so makes a tick-tock sound as he chases Hook). My older son really liked the waterfall that is part of the scenery (we found out after the show that it really is running water).
Peter Pan and Wendy is a solid production that held my two boys’ attention and kept them talking about it the rest of the day.
- Performances run through August 11, 2013. Tickets are $12 to $25; lap tickets are $5 for children under 2 who do not have their own seat.
- The show lasts about 90 minutes.
- Floor seating — small square cushions on the floor in front of the front row — is available for some shows near capacity. There are no backs on the cushion. Kids would likely be fine, but some adults might not be comfortable on the floor.
- For the 7PM performance on July 12, come dressed as a fairy or prince and parade across the stage after the show.
- The 4PM show on July 14 will be ASL interpreted.
- The 11AM show on August 4 will be sensory-friendly.
- Imagination Stage is next to a public parking garage with free parking on weekends and metered parking during the week (meters on higher floors are cheaper than those on the lower floors and allow for longer stays). The red line Bethesda Metro station is a half-mile walk from the theater.
- Booster seats for during the show are available as you enter the theater (or ask an usher for one).
- A soundproof room is inside the theater for noisy kids, and a TV showing the live production is outside the theater.
- Snacks – including cupcakes, popcorn, and candy – are for sale in the lobby and cafe at intermission and before and after the show. A gift shop (almost impossible to avoid on your way in and out) is also on site and usually open before, during, and after show times.
- Bring pennies for the funnel contraption in the lobby – kids love watching coins race as they spin down the funnel.
Photo: Peter Pan (Jonathan Atkinson) takes on Captain Hook (James Konicek) in PETER PAN AND WENDY at Imagination Stage. Photo by Margot Schulman.