By Mary Boyle
The story of Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie is one of the most beloved children’s stories of all time. Countless versions of it appear across all manner of media, yet there always seems to be room for more, and the story, itself, never gets old – just like the boy it is named for. First Stage has chosen to end its Main Stage season with yet another version of this timeless classic, adapted for the stage by Patrick Flynn, in which the story remains unchanged, but the main character of the play has been switched to that tiny little fairy that everyone loves: Tinker Bell!
Directed by Jeff Frank, this delightfully sweet and magical little production is sure to be a hit with anyone who has ever loved fairies or pirates (and, really, who doesn’t?). Tinker Bell (double-cast as Meguire Hennes and Chantae Miller) is the sassy star of this show, and though the story we all love is largely unchanged, it’s told completely from her perspective, with a little help from the pirate, Smee (Chris Klopatek), and the other female in Peter’s life, Wendy (double-cast as Elisheva Scheuer and Paige Landrum).
Originally written for the stage, the role of Peter Pan has often been played by a woman, and First Stage adheres to that tradition, with the role of the boy who refused to grow up being played by either Anna Fitzsimmons or Luca Batory. Many of the lost boys (and there are a few more added that you won’t read about in the original story) are also played by girls, with Wendy’s brothers, John (double-cast as Carson Pressley and Rohan Singh) and Michael (double-cast as Jack Cooney and Liam Eddy), mixed into the crew. Of course, you can’t have any Peter Pan story without his arch nemesis, Captain James Hook (Ryan Schabach), and a good-sized band of pirates help to round out a proper fight in Neverland.
“Do you believe in fairies? You should. They believe in you.”
Clever puppetry, excellent scenic and costume design, and some high-tech lighting work perfectly with imagination to bring the magic of Neverland to life in this production. Chris Klopatek, who went straight from Big River to Tinker Bell, is marvelous as the bumbling Smee, and Ryan Schabach is priceless as the not too fierce, but wonderfully foolish, Hook. This show has a short run-time, and is ideally suited for young children, but is also sure to delight family members of all ages (even if it’s been many years since they’ve believed in fairies).
Tinker Bell runs through June 2nd at the Todd Wehr Theater, located behind the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets may be purchased by calling (414) 267-2961 or online at www.FirstStage.org.
About First Stage
First Stage is one of the nation’s leading theaters for young people and families. First Stage touches hearts, engages minds and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten and entertain. Its Theater Academy, the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for young people, fosters life skills through stage skills and serves over 2,100 students each year. As Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools, First Stage’s dynamic Theater in Education programs promote literacy, character building and experiential learning throughout the curriculum, serving over 20,000 students each year. First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2012), and was the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’sEureka Award, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education and the arts for its Next Steps program for students on the autism spectrum (2013, 2015). First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Milwaukee Arts Partners and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).