Written by 7:24 am La Habra, La Habra Depot Theatre, Mysterium, News, Press Releases, Uncategorized

NEVERLAND REVISITED

WRITTEN BY DANIELLA LITVAK

A long time ago, I used to be a morning person. Why? I actually had a valid reason for getting up insanely early –weekday morning cartoons. One of my favorites was Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates. It had everything: magic, mermaids, kid heroes in animal costumes, and an epic title sequence. Along with Disney’s 1953 film, this show is the reason I now love Peter Pan. As I got older, I became even more curious about the original story, so I read J.M. Barrie’s novelization of his stage play and later learned the behind-the-scenes history of how Peter Pan and its subsequent adaptations came to be – intriguing stories in their own right.

So yes, Peter Pan was a significant influence on me and is one of the major reasons I still love fantasy. Yet, somewhere along the way, I stopped caring about the story. When NBC advertised their broadcast of Peter Pan Live with Christopher Walken featured as Captain Hook, I never considered watching it. If Christopher Walken couldn’t rekindle my interest, I didn’t think any version could.

This belief was tested when The Orange Curtain Review asked me to review Mysterium Theatre’s Peter Pan at the La Habra Depot Theater. Not only was I less than enthusiastic about seeing Peter Pan, I was anxious about reviewing it because I assumed the production would be targeting younger audiences. I had already reviewed a children’s show prior to this, and while it wasn’t the worst show The Orange Curtain Review had sent me to, I felt awkward tearing it apart and was not looking forward to facing the same quandary. Despite all this, I remembered the promise I made to myself when I started writing for the site. I would not back down from a show because of its premise.

Besides, I figured no matter how the show turned out, at least I was going to a theater I hadn’t visited before. The lobby and ticket area look like a train station – the cool 1800s type, not our dreary Amtrak stations. Outside are actual, life-size train cars. I wish I hadn’t been running a bit behind when I got there. I would have taken some cheesy pictures.

I did have a little bit of time to peruse the program before the curtain rose, and I discovered something. London Walston was playing Michael Darling! Back in March, I reviewed Alchemy Theatre’s production of Waiting For Godot, and Walston was in it. Not only was he a charming harbinger of despair in the role of “Boy,” he held his own against great actors like Jeff Lowe.

The last vestiges of my detachment melted when London Walston (Michael), Canaan Clayton ( John Darling), and Michaela Varvis (Wendy Darling) opened the show with a sword fight incorporating a lightsaber, a plunger, and a Nerf bat. My fear of reviewing a show for young audiences quickly evaporated. If everything else had been terrible, I still would have loved the show for that wonderful moment alone.

Mysterium Theater’s Peter Pan wasn’t terrible. It was fantastic. When the actors reached the chorus of their number, “Redhanded Jill,” I was ready to sing along. When the stage was illuminated with the stars of the night sky, and Peter taught the Darlings how to fly, I gasped in awe. And when the pirates broke the fourth wall to point out that pirates Hook had killed in Act 1 could return in Act 2, I laughed harder than anyone else.

To the credit of creators Jordan Beck, Jonathon May, the cast, and the crew, they never let pirates and pixie dust distract them from telling a story. Their tale was packed with agonizing decisions, enduring friendships, and bittersweet farewells. One of the modern trends Beck and May brought into their version of Peter Pan was to allow the romantic feelings between Wendy and Peter to be more explicit and mutual. I’m glad they did because Varvis’ Wendy and Jonny Vazquez’s Peter was my favorite love story of the year. I still get misty-eyed whenever I think of the duet they sang as Wendy decided to leave Neverland (I wish I had been able to find some recording of the song because I would like to hear it again –so far, no luck…).

I also relished how they brought the focus back to Wendy. Peter Pan is her story, but Peter, Tink, and Hook tend to overshadow her. Her dilemma of whether or not to grow up was unexpectedly relatable despite the fact that I (allegedly) grew up years ago. Do I like the life I’m leading? What kind of adult should I be? Thanks to Wendy, I got the answers I needed. Also, I feel much better about this growing up and taking responsibility business now that I know it’s directly comparable to piracy.

The best shows stay with you for weeks after you see them. Even now, I keep thinking about what I experienced at the Mysterium Theatre. I come up with new things to analyze. I occasionally go to Google to see if I can find another musical track or hear what else Beck and May released. I want to see the cast in other shows. Most of all, I am happy to have had another adventure in Neverland.

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