Peter Pan

Written on September 13th, 2010

Peter Pan

Peter Pan 2

Written by J. M. Barrie
Directed by Tim Carroll
Performed by Michael Therriault, Paul Dunn, Sara Topham, Stacie Steadman, Tom McCamus et al.
Stratford Festival Production
Avon Theatre, Stratford
June 12 to October 31, 2010
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Real Live Magic

Children are jaded when attending live theatre today. How can the action on stage possibly compete with the special effects on movie screens? How can theatre compare to all the antics in the artist’s imagination in animated cartoons? How can actors ever respond to the child’s wishes, the way a character in a video game will?

If you have kids or grandkids who you fear will not be impressed with live theatre because they are overloaded with the dynamics of the big and small screen, then take them to see Peter Pan at the Avon Theatre in Stratford.

This play has more magic than a movie chock-full of special effects and all the fun of a Disney cartoon. And it’s real – right there before your eyes.

Peter, Wendy, John and Michael really fly. And no, I didn’t see the lines that I knew were there. Nor was there any pause in the action while harnesses were adjusted and the lines attached. They just flew up in the air – away they went. Pure magic.

A huge pirate ship sails onstage, with pirates singing and dancing. It’s like the Disney ride Pirates of the Caribbean, except these are real, live pirates!

There’s snow falling, stars twinkling, waves rolling across the sea and bubbles floating in the air, all appearing as if by magic. A dinosaur, a mermaid, the twinkling fairy, and, of course, the ticking crocodile all add to the enchantment.

Michael Therriault plays the dichotomy that is Peter Pan – he’s sometimes a bit too serious, but other times he’s a bouncing boy with attention deficit disorder. Therriault has amazing energy: leaping on beds, or flipping summersaults when hanging from the ceiling. He captures the fidgeting curiosity of a nine year old. Because he’s a little older than we are used to seeing Peter, he reminds me of the adult Tom Hanks playing the boy in the movie BIG.

Jay T. Schramek nearly steals the show and delights the children as the shaggy dog who is the children’s Nanny. From his panting tongue to his wagging tail, he has the doggy characteristics down pat.

Sara Topham is a delightful Wendy, taking on the mothering role while remaining a child in a realistic way. Paul Dunn shows comedic talent as John, when imitating his father, Mr. Darling, played hilariously Sanjay Talwar.

Stacie Steadman crosses over to play the little boy Michael, and unfortunately, while she does well at being a child, we never quite forget that she’s a female. It is so refreshing to have a man, rather than the traditional woman play Peter, that it’s regrettable they couldn’t find a male to play Michael.

Laura Condlin plays a loving Mrs. Darling, and Martha Farrell provides laughs as the maid.

Ari Weinberg as Tootles, leads the lost boys, playing a character reminiscent of Mike Myers in the Saturday Night Live sketch Simon in the bathtub. He and the other five lost boys all show excellent comedic timing and work well together.

The band of pirates is delightful, particularly when they run up the aisles and then throw the lost boys through the air from the box seats. Comedian Sean Cullen as Smee even tossed off some improv jokes when a lost boy was missing a face!

Tom McCamus plays the nasty Captain James Hook, but also slyly doubles as J. M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan and narrator of this play. He is charming as Barrie and equally fascinating as the evil Hook.

The sets and special surprise effects are amazing, and the costumes are colourful, making each character spell binding.

This is the best show ever produced at Stratford to welcome children to live theatre. And though there were many in the audience on the evening I attended, they were all enthralled, captivated by the show. Especially the one wee patron who arrived at the theatre all dressed in her Tinkerbell costume.

Peter Pan continues at the Avon Theatre, Stratford until October 31. For tickets, call the box office at 1-800-567-1600 or check

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