The Beck Center's Peter Pan: Fresh, Creative, and Fun for All Ages!

Submitted by Evelyn Kiefer on Tue, 12/09/2008 - 10:42.

The musical Peter Pan, based on the play by James M. Barrie opened last weekend at The Beck Center for the Arts on Detroit Road in Lakewood. I attended the Saturday evening performance with my three and a half year old son, who was one of many children in the audience -- though he was one of the youngest. We both know the story well -- its one of my son's favorites. He has the video of Disney's animated
Peter Pan which includes at the end a history of the stage and film versions. I also saw the movie Finding Neverland, which is about James M. Barrie and stars Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet.

The Beck Center's interpretation of Peter Pan is more complex, politically correct and in some ways darker than the Disney version. The musical is directed by Fred Sternfeld, musical director is Larry Goodpaster and staging and choreography is by Martin Cespedes. One of the most creative aspects of the musical is the casting of Peter Pan. Peter Pan is played by John Paul Soto (in the original stage version and many others Peter Pan was played by a woman). John Paul Soto is more frat boy than imp, but is entirely believable as a boy who refuses to grow up. Wendy and the other Darling children are very real and developed characters. Michael Darling, played by Stephen Sandham is particularly adorable.

One of my favorite aspects of The Beck Center's Peter Pan is the Indians. I have always been embarrassed by the ugly racist caricatures in the Disney movie, but In this version the Indians are more like Amazons. Tiger Lily, dressed in a sexy red and yellow costume leads a band of female warriors. Tiger Lily, played by Alexis Generette Floyd is more of a tigress than a princess in peril. Her performance is outstanding! Captain Hook is a wonderfully grotesque and detestable villain complete with makeup, frock coat and lace. My son immediately noticed that his hook had not one but two sharp points. Captain Hook is ported around like Louis XIV by his strange crew. Their costumes depart from the expected pirate garb to include a kilt and lederhosen - Neverland is a fantasy world for everyone in it. The songs were not particularly memorable but the cast sang them well. The sets were very well done too. The bedroom in the Darling home was very Victorian London complete with a large window that opened to a night sky and twinkling stars. It was not hard for me to suspend belief so it must have looked very real to the children in the audience. True to the original stage version Nana the dog and the crocodile that drools over Captain Hook are played charmingly by costumed actors.

The performance I attended seemed to captivate the audience. Despite the audience being about half children under twelve years of age there was barely a sound to be heard during the three acts. My son sat silently watching with great interest during the three hour performance (there were two intermissions). A few times he could not contain his excitement and had to comment or ask a question. He was particularly impressed by Captain Hook's hook.

Peter Pan runs December 5 - January 4 Thursday - Sunday with evening and matinée performances. Visit The Beck Center's website for more information or to purchase tickets. Tickets are very affordable and ticket prices are reduced for children under 12, students and seniors.

My son and I braved a blizzard to come to the Westside for the Saturday evening performance but it was well worth the trip.
At the end of the performance Claes asked if we could watch it again.

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Beck Center is always an option for fun winter kidstuff. Also Greenbrier Theatre, Cleveland Public Theatre and Near West Theatre...Please, all are welcome to post here at RealNEO! Local theatre is definitely one of NEO's +++++ plus attractions.

Also, on an upbeat note, I attended Circlefest this year and it was brrrrrrr cold, but really fun. Dust off your skates and head out to University Circle. We can make it through this, the cruelest month.