In true Friday the 13th fashion, problems plagued the opening night of the Music Theatre of Idaho's production of the popular children's play, Peter Pan, at the Nampa Civic Center. We knew mischievous gremlins were at work when, about 20 minutes into the show, the play was halted, the curtain closed and the director, Dr. Jean Andrews, announced over the sound system that there was a technical problem that would be fixed in five minutes. In less than five minutes, the play was under way, but later suffered some awkward pauses and lighting problems. The cast was unperturbed, however, and kept up the excitement and energy like true professionals. Peter Pan is a highly technical show, with up to four people "flying" at one time, thanks to Flying by Foy, a company that installs the system and instructs theater crews all over the world in its use. Great care and precision are required to avoid any tragic accidents.
The sold-out first performance bubbled with hundreds of excited children, there to see the flying boy who won't grow up, in his fairy-tale life of freedom from school and battles with Indians and pirates.
The three shows remaining are nearly sold out, so check for tickets and get on a waiting list if you must. The magic and music are worth it.
Briskly directed by Andrews, the show's pace is almost manic, whipping the 50-plus cast through adventure after adventure. The show's nursery set for the three children of Mr. and Mrs. Darling is fabulous, and of course, features the huge casement windows that will mysteriously glide open as Taylor Vickers as Peter Pan makes a superb entrance, soaring onstage in a shower of glittering fairy dust. Vickers plays Peter as a feisty, athletic boy, expert at cartwheels and sword fights. She has a lovely but small voice, that, unfortunately, is frequently overwhelmed by the orchestra, a constant problem with many singers during this show.
Jeff Gunstream is delightful as the inept dad, Mr. Darling, fussing because he can't tie his bow tie, and distraught because the dog gets hairs on his elegant evening clothes. But when we get to Neverland, Gunstream turns into the fierce and funny Captain Hook. His performance is magnificently flamboyant as the pirate leader who prances, gesticulates, sings with bombastic energy and dominates his every scene.
The three Darling children are, well, darling. Krista Wilford is an enchanting Wendy, who goes to Neverland to be a mother to the Lost Boys; Mac Fishman is rakish as John in his top hat, and 5-year-old Holden Kennedy as Michael is an adorable scene stealer in his fuzzy pajamas and fearless flying. The charming maid, portrayed by Amanda Watson, sparkles her way through a beautiful dance into Neverland and a duet with Peter.
The two animals in the cast are both audience favorites. Nana, the big lovable dog in her fancy hat, is the children's "nanny." She is given a roguish personality by Katie Scanlin, who can be fierce and protective and then can collapse into a miserable wilted hunk of fluff when her feelings are hurt. Jessica Price ticks right along as the hungry crocodile with glowing eyes who craves more of Captain Hook. The dancing "laser light" fairy, Tinkerbell, can take a twinkling bow, too.
Add to these great characters the winsome Lost Boys, the hilariously scruffy pirates and the sensational Indians, led by Tiger Lily, a dynamo of dancing and singing energy played by Chelsi Gunstream, and all the audience, kids as well as adults, will feel as if the fairy dust has carried them to author James Barrie's enchanted land of childhood, "where dreams come true and time is never planned."
Peter Pan, based on a play by James M. Barrie; lyrics by Carolyn Leigh; music by Mark Charlap and Jule Styne. A Music Theatre of Idaho production, directed by Dr. Jean Andrews at the Nampa Civic Center, 311 3rd St. S. at 7:30 p.m. Thur.-Sat. Advance tickets: $14.50 adults; $13 seniors; $11 children. All seats $20 when purchased at door. For reservations: 468-2385; at MTI ticket office, 203 9th Ave. S., or online at www.mtionline.org.