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Occupy Neverland

"Peter Pan" at TMP entertains the 99-percent

Pirates In Tacoma: Mark Rake-Marona (Hook) and John Miller (Smee) must have an awesome dry cleaner. Photo credit: Kat Dollarhide

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Piers Chater Robinson's Peter Pan is adapted from the play by J.M. Barrie. The story strikes a chord with kids who don't want to grow up, as well as adults who wish they were responsibility-free like children. Or people who just wish they could fly.  

Having only experienced Disney's version of Peter Pan and the Robin Williams movie, Hook, I went into Tacoma Musical Playhouse with a fair amount of skepticism (which, to be quite honest, is how I approach most musicals). I was hoping it would be a short evening, clocking in around an hour since the website said play was suitable for children ages 4 and up. I was a little dismayed to see Act I alone is 70 minutes. Act II is 55 minutes and, there's a 15-minute intermission. I tried not to be too disgruntled (or focus on how sleepy I was) and prepared to take my notes like a good little critic. 

The opening number went on longer than necessary to establish the story. But, thankfully, the other numbers were more entertaining. The entire Darling family was comprised of good actors, and even though Bailey Boyd portrayed Wendy fantastically, Caleb Haalstrup stole several scenes as Michael Darling. Haalstrup's dancing and pirate fighting were adorable. 

Better than any of the actors portraying the Darlings was Erika Zabelle as Peter Pan. Females are usually cast in the role of Peter Pan, so Zabelle's casting wasn't a surprise, but as the show went on it was easy to see why she nabbed the lead role. Zabelle's delivery was flawless. Her singing, dancing, flying, facial expressions, gestures and consistency of British accent all seemed natural and effortless. Zabelle WAS Peter Pan. In fact, Zabelle and Boyd were so great and captivating to watch that it was a shock when the lights came up for intermission. 70 minutes had never flown by so quickly.  

Some costuming choices were distracting from the show; the first was Nana's. Garrett Young did a fine job acting under the enormous dog head, but the costume itself was cartoonish and didn't seem to match the care that was given to the Darling's costumes and nursery. Contrasted by the AMAZING crocodile costume, Nana's seemed even more out of place.

The pirates' costumes were another let down. Their costumes were pristinely clean - one wore argyle socks and another looked like a courtier/fop from the Elizabethan Era and not particularly swarthy or convincing as a pirate. The final disappointing costuming choice was that of the Indians. Tiger Lily's costume was a tiger print/pinkish color, but the rest of the Indians' costumes looked more Egyptian, with rich blues, purples and shiny gold.

The set designs and backdrops were beautiful and the lighting added depth - setting off the time of day beautifully. The sound was good and the flying effects were wonderful. 

Tacoma Musical Playhouse's Peter Pan may be a little long for small children, but they will love every minute until they fall asleep in their chairs.

[Tacoma Musical Playhouse, Peter Pan, through Dec. 18, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday and Saturday, Dec. 3, $20-$27, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.565.6867]

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