CVIndependent

Sat04042020

Last updateMon, 23 Mar 2020 12pm

“It’s a super-big challenge to fly.”

That the reason it’s taken more than 20 years for the Palm Canyon Theatre to put on the popular musical Peter Pan—but the venerable downtown Palm Springs theater will launch its new season with a production of the classic musical, on Friday, Sept. 20.

Paul Grant, who will play Captain Hook, discussed the show inside the spacious Palm Canyon Theatre auditorium on the northern side of downtown Palm Springs. Songs and dancing and costumes and scenery are all fine and dandy, Grant said, but to really get Peter Pan off the ground … you have to really get Peter Pan—not to mention Wendy, Michael and John Darling—off the ground, to make their way to Neverland. To replicate the show’s signature theatrical effect that sends multiple actors aloft, Grant said, “You have to hire Foy”—the company started by Peter Foy, the designer of the flight systems from the original production, which have been used in nearly every production since.

“It’s very expensive,” Grant said. “They’ve wanted to do it for a long time, but kept pushing it off” due to the significant cost—up to $10,000 for a two-week run, depending on the package, according to information from the Flying by Foy website. But the theater “had a good year this past year, so they’re in a better position, and they wanted to bring (the idea) back to life,” Grant said.

Peter Pan was a great fit for the season-opener, because the Palm Canyon Theatre operates a Kids’ Camp for six weeks every summer.

“We wanted to do a show coming out of the summer that was inclusive of the kids,” Grant said. And what better choice than a beloved musical about a boy who won’t grow up?

J.M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, debuted in 1904, and has been staged in a variety of forms ever since. After the popular 1953 Disney animated film, the 1954 stage musical adaptation, starring Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard, enjoyed a sold-out limited Broadway run. Peter Pan solidified its place in theatrical canon through subsequent televised re-stagings on NBC, in 1955 and 1956—as well as a 1960 standalone special that most people know today, thanks to numerous rebroadcasts and a home-video release. In 2014, NBC broadcast Peter Pan Live!, a new, slightly rewritten production with additional songs that starred Allison Williams and Christopher Walken.

Peter Pan is one of few American productions with roots in the traditions of pantomime, a style of family-friendly musical comedy developed in England with roots in 16th century Italian commedia dell’arte. Conventions of pantomime include song, dance, gags, slapstick comedy and cross-dressing lead characters—with, in the case of Peter Pan, the mischievous hero played by a young woman in men’s clothing. Kellee McQuinn takes on the title role in this production.

Grant plays the more-earthbound role of Captain Hook, a pirate with a bone to pick with Peter, because the boy cut off his hand and fed it to a crocodile—whose ravenous appetite for the remainder of Captain Hook makes it a constant, unnerving reptilian presence. Hook is “evil but fun,” said Grant, who also plays the Darlings’ initially imperious father. The dual casting is traditional, and not accidental. Grant offered a casual theory: Though the story is about a boy who won’t grow up, several other characters do grow over the course of the play, especially Wendy, the eldest Darling child—but so does her father, who at the end is a far more patient and gracious figure.

“The experience of traveling through their children’s fantasy has changed the way that he responds to them,” Grant suggested. However, Grant emphasized that, as of the interview, rehearsals had yet to begin for the specific production.

“In the end,” Grant said, “the actor is just a color. The director is the painter.” Longtime Palm Canyon Theatre principal Se Layne will direct and choreograph.

Peter Pan will be performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Sept. 20, through Sunday, Sept. 29, at the Palm Canyon Theatre, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $32 to $36, with discounts. For tickets or more information, call 760-323-5123, or visit www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

Peter Pan, newly out on Blu-ray, is not one of the truly great Disney animated films, but it's still a good watch—even if Peter Pan is kind of a jerk.

Walt Disney had been trying to make an adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s story of a boy who never grows old for years, but World War II got in the way. It finally hit screens in 1953, and while it wasn’t as visually charming as past Disney efforts, it still had some artistic heft, and was the last feature that Disney’s “Nine Old Men” animators worked on together as a whole.

I remember the story line confused me a bit when I was a kid, because Wendy and her brothers always talked of having seen Peter Pan before the events in this movie. That used to baffle me. And I always hated how they left Nana the dog floating like a balloon with a noose-like rope around its neck when Peter and the kids took off for Neverland.

Peter Pan was voiced here for the first time by a dude (Bobby Driscoll). Driscoll, a famous child actor, fell on hard times soon thereafter, dying as a pauper in Greenwich Village and getting buried in an unmarked grave at the age of 31.

Man … this is supposed to be a review of a happy children’s movie, isn’t it?

As a kid, I thought Tinkerbell was a villain. Now, well … actually, I still see her as a villain. And I feel bad for Captain Hook, whom Peter Pan toys with and maliciously taunts with an alligator. Peter Pan was indeed kind of an ass.

No matter; this is still fun to watch. And, I must add, the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland remains one of my favorites.

Special Features: A nice new documentary, where children of the “Nine Old Men” reminisce about their fathers. You also get some deleted scenes and songs, and a commentary from Roy Disney.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing