SPRING HILL — Fighting with pirates. Living among mermaids and fairies. Never growing up.
The fantasy world created by author J.M. Barrie has been a favorite of children and adults for more than 100 years, and perhaps is why the adventures of Peter Pan continue to live on in various adaptations on stage and in films.
It has been more than 60 years since Disney's animated film brought Peter Pan to life and produced classic songs such as You Can Fly and Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me). And it is this familiar and fun Disney version of the story that will take audiences on a trip to Neverland with Peter and the Darling Children in a teen production of Peter Pan Jr. that opens tonight (Friday) at Stage West Community Playhouse.
"We're pretty excited about it," said director Terri Marwood. "I've been planning the set since I knew we were doing (the show)."
The set will be a Neverland scene that includes Captain Hook's pirate ship, Peter Pan's hideout, and even the mermaid lagoon and Indian tepees. The orchestra pit will be turned into an area of "water" where a 6-foot crocodile resides. "I call him Bartholomew," Marwood joked.
Marwood said that while some of the set pieces were pilfered from past shows, much of it would not have been possible without the help of Chuck Lutton.
And Marwood said she couldn't be happier with her cast of 35 teenagers.
"This cast is so cool," she said. "They work so well together."
The role of Peter has been double cast with Dakota Ruiz, 15, and Amanda Waters, 14. Ruiz has performed parts in numerous shows, including Kurt in The Sound of Music (Show Palace), and most recently Peter in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Live Oak Theatre). Waters has been in shows such as last year's Stage West teen production of Fame — The Musical, as Ms. Bell the dance teacher, and most recently in Weeki Wachee High School's production of The Drowsy Chaperone.
"Both Amanda and Dakota bring so much to their performances as Peter," Marwood said. She said when Ruiz first walked into the theater, she had her Peter. "He's perfect." And despite being a girl, Marwood said, Waters' take is fantastic. "Her facial expressions are priceless," she said.
"Wait until you hear her sing," added music director Jacki Scott. "All their voices are wonderful. The caliber (of singing) is amazing."
Other performers include Rebecca Douglas as Wendy, Holly Frendberg as Tinker Bell, Christian Braz as Captain Hook, Christopher Rocanelli as John, Talia Jaeger as Michael, Marissa Piccinich as Smee, Alec Kreger as Mr. Darling and Chief Tiger Bamboo, Nicole Piccinich as Mrs. Darling and a mermaid, and Alyssa Baumgartner as Nana and Tiger Lily. Others performing as Indians, mermaids, pirates and Lost Boys include Emily Kane, Briana Rifino, Danielle DePaul, Delayne McFarland, Ella Staneszeweski, Alexander Nelson, Samantha Baumgartner, Lyndsey Ruiz, Alessandra Paolinetti, Tyler Strahan and Reed Washington.
Tracey Baumgartner is assistant director and stage manager.
There will be plenty of hijinks, such as when Hook loses his pants (Marwood promises a surprise), a cannon blast, an exploding pie, and even a fantastic sword fight choreographed by Braz, 18.
And although Peter and the Darlings won't actually fly across the stage, Marwood said panels will be used to create an illusion of flying. "It's going to be a lot of fun," she promised.