October 31, 2014

A Thrilling Peter Pan, Jr. from Topanga Elementary

 

Isn’t it nice to imagine that just outside the windows of those who remain young at heart, a group of fairies gather? Maybe sometimes, under a full moon they peek in, giggling as they observe us in our dream state, as close to being children as we can still be.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2014

A Thrilling <i>Peter Pan, Jr.</i> from Topanga Elementary

Peter Pan (Henry Miller) and Wendy (Sasha Luczy) fly to Neverland with the fairies.

In the production of Topanga Elementary Theater Arts, Peter Pan, Jr., (Sir J.M. Barrie), presented the weekend of March 14, there is a scene where a group of Neverland’s fairies hover just beyond the Darling’s nursery window. It was a breathtaking moment that seemed to stir a longing in the heart of everyone there, young, old and in between, to dearly beckon those winged sylphs to, “Please come in.”

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2014

A Thrilling <i>Peter Pan, Jr.</i> from Topanga Elementary

John (Slater Anton), Michael (Charlie Moog) and Mr. Darling (Summer Anne Wadleigh) play fight in the children’s nursery.

Produced once again by the inspired team of two Topanga wonders, Jill Williams and Sue Schmitt, joy and youth is splendidly presented, some intentional, and some just plain delightfully spontaneous.

Directed by Williams and the unsinkable Jaya Ely, who has again, magnificently taken on co-directing duties, they’ve achieved a perfect balance for the wide-ranging ages and abilities of a cast of 150 students. Assisted by Jr. Director, Lola Stockard, and Jr. Producer, Catalina Brody, the production was equally professional and personal.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2014

A Thrilling <i>Peter Pan, Jr.</i> from Topanga Elementary

Peter Pan (Henry Miller) and Wendy (Sasha Luczy) meet in the Darling’s nursery in London. Peter convinces Wendy and her brothers to fly to Neverland with him to meet the Lost Boys.

Cast member Xavier Ippolito was both a boy and a pirate who’s energy could not be contained and somehow it was perfect, even when he threw arrows into the audience.

The pre-show program began with the song, “I Won’t Grow Up,” presented by the K-2 Rising Stars cast and no one wants them to age one bit.

Then the curtain opens on the Darling’s nursery with a cozy and fun bedroom set designed by, Sean Colgin, Lisa Roumain Smith and Martin Schmitt, who along with their team, created all the clever and complex sets.

The show was double cast and on Sunday afternoon Cast Two performed. The children of the household—Wendy, played alternately by Sasha Luczy and Valentina Silardi; John, played by Slater Anton and India Schmitt (nice job by India who looked great in those pajamas); and Michael by Charlie Moog and Summer Sholty—long for the adventure of Neverland and the magical boy who lives there, Peter Pan.

The actors truly seemed to be siblings having fun together under the guidance of caring Nana the dog played fluffily by Aurora Finetti. Of course, stern and dignified father, Mr. Darling, with Summer Anne Wadleigh doing a fine turn, does not approve of such shenanigans. Mrs. Darling, a lovely Maya Demontreaux who said, “I love playing her, she’s so elegant,” attempts to keep the family balance. Nonetheless, Mr. Darling pronounces that it is time Wendy grew up and that this will be her last night in the nursery. And what a night!

After the children are asleep, a beautiful fairy enters, a small ball of light that darts about the room. Mikayla Williams as Tinkerbell shone even brighter than her magnificently glowing wings. Lola Stockard sparkled in the role in Cast One.

Suddenly there he is, the very spirit of youth and joy, Peter Pan. Trey Buck, perfectly personified Pan’s free and untamed essence and talented Henry Miller captured it as well in the alternative cast. ­After securing his lost shadow, it’s “second from the right and straight on ‘til morning” as the actors cleverly take to the air and zoom over old London Town and off to the Never-land. My heart flew with them.

Soon we arrive at the pirate ship, another wonderful set accomplishment, and are entertained by the antics of the pirate crew and their captain, one James Hook. Who can resist singing and dancing pirates? Bravo to vocal coaches, Sean FayeCullen and Keely Sibilia, for their work throughout the show and to the inspired choreography of Kristy Beauvais. Actress Zelda Adams is a charming Captain

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2014

A Thrilling <i>Peter Pan, Jr.</i> from Topanga Elementary

Captain Hook (Morguinn Fullove) and his pirate henchman have captured Tiger Lily (Skye Smith) while they sing “Yo, Ho, A Pirate’s Life for Me!”

Hook, full of just the right amount of blather and dignity. Alternate for Cast One, Morguinn Fullove did a dandy job filling the pirate boots.

Beau Staun-List, alternating with Camilla Archer, was loveable as sidekick Smee complete with spectacles and beard (wasn’t Beau just a little pixie herself not so long ago?). A special nod goes to Pen Walker as a pirate who wants a mother.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2014

A Thrilling <i>Peter Pan, Jr.</i> from Topanga Elementary

Tick-Tock the crocodile (Dylan Hein) swims around the ship while the pirates sing “Never Smile at a Crocodile.”

An undisputed crowd pleaser was Tick Tock, played by Dylan Hein who slithered across the stage and in spite of advice to the contrary, couldn’t help but make everyone smile at a crocodile.

Neverland is populated by many a wild group and the wildest and woolliest of all is, The Lost Boys. What a motley and furry crew! Many of the group looked as if they could have been original Topanga settlers.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2014

A Thrilling <i>Peter Pan, Jr.</i> from Topanga Elementary

The Lost Boys with Peter Pan (Henry Miller) in the forest sing “You Can Fly” reprise and “Following the Leader.”

The imaginative, charming, and original costumes were the artistic work of Emma Trask, Destiny Lonaon and their dedicated costume crew, who so beautifully dressed all the performers.

Loyal to Peter, these boys in the hood are in constant conflict with the pirates and the other occupants of the island, The Indians. Silanchi Erickson as Chief Bamboo, was a funny and formidable noble savage. The courageous Tiger Lily was well acted by Gabbi Beauvais who stood tall and brave. Skye Smith was the lovely, independent, Indian maiden in Cast One. The whole tribe came together in a rousing version of, “What Makes the Brave Man Brave?”.

Now it wouldn’t really be Neverland without Mermaids and, sure enough, they appeared in all colors of the rainbow singing in their clear sea voices. How beautiful they all were!

Though one may wish to, one can’t stay forever in Neverland unless, of course, you’re Peter. After many an adventure and evil pirate plots foiled by loyal Tinkerbell, it becomes evident to maternal Wendy that the children are forgetting their real mother. A true stage-motherly heart-to-heart moment between Valentina Silardi and Summer Sholty presented itself complete with appropriate giggles.

Tick Tock makes short work of Hook, then it’s safely back to the Darling nursery where father remembers what it’s like to be a child. And so may all of us.

Asked backstage about his experience in the play, Trey Buck, (Peter), appropriately surrounded by a group of mermaid actresses, looked up quickly, glitter sparkling on his face and replied, “Never grow up.”

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2014

A Thrilling <i>Peter Pan, Jr.</i> from Topanga Elementary

In the forest of Neverland, Chief Bamboo (Silanchi Erickson) with his braves sing “What Makes the Brave Man Brave?”

All of this magic was the work of a dedicated group who sprinkled their own pixie dust to enable the young actors to soar, in some cases literally, thanks to Master Aerial Riggers Paul Beauvis and Kristy Beauvis of FocusFish.

Talent was well coached by Lisa Roumain Smith and Toby Poser, and the incredible set design construction/prop/painting team is to be commended.

Martin Schmitt, Catherine Luczy, Paula Sholty, Richard Brody and their fine group of coordinators and supervisors managed the stage crew. Technical direction was by Steve Smith who also shared lighting design with Teal Brogden and Patrick O’Connor. Audio was from Steve Luczy and Markian Fedorowycz.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2014

A Thrilling <i>Peter Pan, Jr.</i> from Topanga Elementary

Wendy (Sasha Luczy) tells the Lost Boys a story at their secret hideout. The Neverland is populated by many a wild group and the wildest and woolliest of all is, The Lost Boys. What a motley and furry crew! Many of the group looked as if they could have been original Topanga settlers.

All of the student stage crew and prop kids did a great job. Fabulous make-up and hair was by Destiny London, along with a talented team who created dreamlike images.

Volunteers in multiple areas and generous local businesses contributed to the flight, which this year had an, “anything can happen feeling,” most appropriate for a trip to Neverland.

Topanga Elementary Principal Nicole Sheard is once again most appreciated for her support and enthusiasm, as well as the Topanga Enrichment Programs.

The venue for this year’s production was the Class Act Musical Theatre (www.classactmusicaltheatre.com), to whom the producers give their heartfelt thanks.

Finally, congratulations to all of the cast who, for those few hours, flew us to the shores where children are forever at play.

We end with a picture of a glowing Jill Williams on stage surrounded by grateful actors who obviously adored her, and Sue Schmitt, Jaya Ely, Martin Schmitt and everyone who taught them to fly.

This is the last year that much loved producer Sue Schmitt will be on the job.

“When a friend asks you to co-produce a play with her, say yes,” she muses. “You might think you are doing it for her but seven years later you realize she was really giving you a gift.”

The final song the cast sang was “What Does the Fox Say?” And the answer is, “We love you Sue.”

May there always be fairies outside your window.