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TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. “The Santa Land Diaries.” Dec. 5 through Dec. 23. By David Sedaris. For mature audiences. “One man’s brave journey through a maze of candy-caned kids, pretentious parents, and nasty St. Nicks.” Lohman Theatre at Foohill College, Los Altos Hills. $20-$45. http://theatreworks.org or 650-463-1960. TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. “Our Great Tchaikovsky.” Jan. 10 through Feb. 11. Written and performed by Hershey Felder. Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View. $45-$105 (discounts available). http://theatreworks.org or 650-463-1960.
If you think the musical version of “Peter Pan” is only for kids, you’ve got another think coming, It’s for everyone who believes in magic — even a little ballet shoes for anna bit — because the Palo Alto Players production which runs through Nov, 19 is truly magical for anyone between 3 and 93, More than a little of the credit for that goes to the mesmerizing Corrie Farbstein, who has exactly the right amount of swagger, athleticism and boyish perkiness to make anyone believe she’s Peter Pan, And then there’s the flying, There’s a whole lot of flying: Glorious, wondrous flying, Flying of small children, so all those harnesses and wires have to work, Mostly they do, although there was a brief technical glitch on opening night when a flight cable got attached to a high light and had to be undone, No matter, Thanks to the company ZFX, the flying was, in a word, magic..
There’s also a wondrous set, thanks to Players artistic director/scenic designer Patrick Klein. Sometimes the set just explodes into pieces and fades to a starry sky, while other sets (like the Lost Boys’ underground home in Neverland) are huge boilers and machinery (some of which just might come to life). And while the pirate ship is mostly suggested, the nursery of the Darling family residence is beautifully staged. Director Janie Scott has worked her magic here, too, taking a tangle of weird storylines and what seems like a bazillion actors and effortlessly making it into a cohesive whole.
Those actors? Oh, yeah, baby! Several are “Peter Pan” veterans, especially John Bisceglie who’s notching his 10th — you read it correctly — 10th production of “Pan,” and his seventh as the villainous (but not too scary for little ones) Captain Hook, Sporting the world’s largest red ring, and darling, long black tendril curls, Bisceglie alternately switches from charming to dastardly with a flick of those curls, As Tiger Lily, ballet shoes for anna the leader of the Warriors and Peter Pan’s comrade in arms, Catrina Contini has her third go at the role, and she’s nothing short of terrific, It’s difficult to take your eyes off her dark eyes and rapid moves in her dance numbers..
There are, in fact, so many excellent performers in this show that it’s hard to leave out anyone. Standouts include the pint-sized scene-stealer Billy Hutton as the youngest Darling child, Michael. Clad in a red onesie, young master Hutton has great stage presence and is only in the fifth grade. Shawn Bender turns in a nice comedic performance as Hook’s sidekick Smee, and Eddie Standifer III, though unrecognizable, plays it for humor as the Darling family’s beloved dog, Nana. There’s also a not-very-scary crocodile that glides across the stage on a skateboard, so what’s not to like?.
The role of Wendy Darling, the eldest child who becomes the “mother” to Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, is pivotal, Brittany Mignano is a terrific actress (and what ballet shoes for anna a voice!), but she’s only supposed to be a young girl of 13 or so, Yes, she’s a tiny woman, but she looks more like a mini-adult, and often shows far more maturity than anyone could at that age, That said, Mignano did a remarkable job of wrapping Peter Pan and his band of brothers around her finger as their mother figure, One of the perennially delightful memories of “Peter Pan” comes from the musical score that was composed by several people (Mark Charlap, Jule Styne, etc.) and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Based on J, M, Barrie’s 1904 play, the musical was first produced on Broadway in 1954 with the incomparable Mary Martin as Peter, It won Tony Awards both for her and her co-star, Cyril Ritchard, who played Hook, (Sandy Duncan and gymnast Cathy Rigby are other notable Peters.)..
Director Scott also has played both Wendy and Peter on Broadway and in regional theaters, giving her a very intimate understanding of this show. You can put Farbstein’s name right up there with those superstars — she’s that terrific. For one thing, she’s got a natural physicality that enables her to move naturally. There’s something about the way she cocks her head, slow grin spreading across her face, expressive eyes twinkling, that makes the audience feel they are, indeed, seeing the real deal. She even makes it sound sincere after Wendy sews on Peter’s shadow and he proposes that Wendy become his mother. “None of us have any pockets,” he helplessly explains.
Right from the start of the snappy overture (all the music is from a recording), the familiar sounds of “I Gotta Crow,” “I’m Flying,” “I Won’t Grow Up,” “Neverland” — even the politically incorrect “Ugh-A-Wug” — bring back a flood of memories to the adults and create a whole bunch of new ones for youngsters, (Sound designer John DiLoreto and sound supervisor Jeff Grafton deserve credit for modulating the sound so that all the singers’ ballet shoes for anna words could be heard, and music director Lauren Bevilacqua rehearsed the songs with the cast.)..