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‘Peter Pan’ soars in the hands of Marshall High School

Julia Katz, a student at McLean High School, reviews Marshall High School’s “Peter Pan” as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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Front row: Andrew Cressman, Olivia Ellis, Sarah Chapin, Lenny Tellis. Top row: Orla Conway, Ellen Chapin, Blaga Anassovia, Dani Fletcher from Marshall High School. (Photo courtesy of Marshall HS)

Squeeze your eyes tightly shut, feel that sprinkle of pixie dust, and take off in flight to a magical place where fairies are born from children’s laughter and kids must never grow up. That joyful spirit of eternal youth manifested itself in George C. Marshall’s production of “Peter Pan,” where the cast soared to new heights—literally.

Adapted from J.M. Barrie’s famous children’s story “Peter and Wendy,” a musical version premiered on Broadway in 1954 starring Mary Martin and featuring music by famed composer Jule Styne. The musical did not stray far from Barrie’s original work, where the Darling children awaken to a remarkable boy named Peter Pan, who whisks them away on a thrilling adventure to Neverland.

Marshall stayed true to the challenging script and replicated the most difficult elements with great success including the complex choreography. Student choreographers Kat Porcell and Michael Burin used fly wires to make the cast members airborne.

The joie de vivre in Ellen Chapin’s enthusiastic Peter Pan was infectious; she mastered the part with every scrunched-up facial expression and sprightly gesture. Chapin’s harmonious vocals—most vivid in songs such as “I Gotta Crow” and “Neverland” –proved to be a highlight of Marshall’s performance. And the subtlety in Scott Anderson’s portrayal of legendary scoundrel Captain Hook also held its own and caused bursts of laughter throughout Hook’s most villainous lines.

Throughout the whirlwind journey, down-to-earth Wendy and Meara O’Malley, who played her, grew up and matured before the audience’s eyes. O’Malley displayed a great range of expression and poise, evolving from a bubbly girl to a more stern, even matronly, adolescent. Hook’s right-hand man Smee (Keith Boylan), as well as, Tiger Lilly (Allie Rosenbluth), Mr. Darling (Robin Crigler) and Slightly (Orla Conway) also proved to be memorable characters, despite their relatively short appearances.

At times, the ensemble’s excitement and high energy gave way to an overcrowded stage that distracted the audience from key, action-packed moments.

Marshall’s props and effects crew helped create the flawless illusion of flight, which added to the magic of the show. Large props, such as the huge crocodile that slithered into several scenes, added to the fantasy and thrilling world that was created. The set featured many large, moveable pieces, including a trap door. Lighting kept pace with the show, especially during a vibrant cyclorama. It also somewhat overshadowed the inconsistent microphone sound quality.

Marshall’s lively production made fantasy look plausible and dared its audience to use their imagination by meeting them halfway there. In the end, Marshall not only managed to make their actors fly, but they also made their audience believe.

By Julia Katz, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  December 24, 2009; 12:16 PM ET
 | Tags: Cappies 2009  
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