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[whitespace] Irate Pirate: Joseph Ribeiro's Captain Hook tries in vain to snare the mercurial Peter.

Flash in The 'Pan'

Cabrillo Stage soars with can't-miss classic 'Peter Pan'

By Andrea Perkins

OPENING-NIGHT performances either stagger or soar. Cabrillo Stage's summer extravaganza, Peter Pan, miraculously managed to do both last Thursday.

For starters, the play is handsomely decorated. Elaborate sets (Martin Christoffel) and nuanced lighting (Kurt Landisman) complement the expected but nicely done costumes (Maria Crush). No new interpretations here: Peter Pan appears in leafy green, Wendy in blue and lace, Hook in pointy hat and velvet. On every level, Cabrillo Stage faithfully re-creates a production with which babies, grandmas and everyone in between are already familiar. And they manage to do it with a lot of pluck.

Yet, Peter Pan doesn't really get off the ground until Act Two. In the opening nursery scenes, not-quite-convincing English accents lend an air of rigidity to the playful script by Sir James M. Barrie. Things warm up when Janie Scott, as Peter Pan, makes her glittery airborne entrance. The wires are visible as they support her footloose acrobatics (she could conceivably bust a gasket at times), but they hold. Watching actors swaying to and fro is usually entertaining no matter what, and Scott really gives it her all.

Things start picking up after Peter sweeps "the Wendy" and her brothers off to Neverland. Here we see the goofy antics of the pirates (lead by that most likable of villains, Captain Hook) thwarted by the high-octane dancing of the Indians. These are undoubtedly the most inspired and enjoyable moments in a show that some may argue has been done to death.

Director Bonnie Hellman knows what to do with a large cast, and rarely is a beat missed or a moment unsure. Working from a proven score and script, she takes few chances, playing everything by the book. One must excuse the clichéd emoting of the actors, as the style is embedded in the play itself. Overexaggerated delivery (which abounds) is thus fitting.

Scott carries on the tradition of a middle-aged female playing the role of the boy who wouldn't grow up. Her previous experience as Wendy in the Broadway production shows, and her enthusiasm is endearing. She leaps and soars with the energy of an 8-year-old and displays all the appropriate accompanying mannerisms.

She can be a bit maudlin, especially when beseeching the audience to clap their hands if they believe in fairies. But Scott's voice is strong and charismatic, and she prevents herself from going overboard. Her slightly forced "boyish" laugh, however, can be maniacal at times.

Joseph Ribeiro makes a most wonderful and hilarious Hook, coloring the role with subtlety and panache and executing his solos with a great deal of flare. His robust performance adds energy and professionalism to the production as a whole. Even cynics will giggle.

Whitney Stock, who doesn't do much for Wendy, succeeds in offering a consistent portrayal without too much depth. Bright performances that warrant mention are Suzanne Guyot as Tiger Lily and Tod Connor as Smee.

In addition to playing the lead, Scott choreographed the show and deserves accolades for a job well done. The quality of both the singing and the dancing is quite remarkable. No excuses need be made for the delightful music, which is wonderfully performed by a live pit orchestra.

In spite of a few less-then-pro details--visible wires and a Tinker Bell played by a red laser blob accompanied by Mr. Roger-esque celeste music--Peter Pan is an enjoyable romp.

Peter Pan a Cabrillo Stage production, plays Wednesday-Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2 and 8pm (8pm only July 8 and Aug. 5) and Sunday at 3pm (except July 9), through Aug. 6. Tickets are $18-$22. (831.479.6154)

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From the July 12-19, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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