Moonlight’s second musical production for the 36th summer season will soon fly on to the Moonlight Amphitheatre stage on July 20th through August 6th. Under the direction of Moonlight artistic director Steven Glaudini, choreographed by Carlos Mendoza and musical directors Kenneth Gammie and J.D. Dumas, the 1954 Broadway musical, “Peter Pan”, will take flight. This will be the first time in 20 years the adult production of “Peter Pan” will take place.
Following the traditions of Broadway, Peter Pan will be played by a female, Misty Cotton. Misty recently performed as Anytime Annie in the San Diego Music Theatre production of “42nd Street”. She actually began her acting career at Moonlight and last performed on the Moonlight stage in “Tommy” in 2013.
Coupled with this will be incredible sets from the original Cathy Rigby production. As we watched the staging on Wednesday we were told the huge sets had just arrived at Moonlight on Monday and crews immediately began the job of transforming the stage into the Darling kids nursery and Hook’s pirate ship and the Lost Boys forest home.
Steven Glaudini has come full circle with this production of “Peter Pan”. He saw his first Moonlight performance, “Into the Woods”, in 1990 and he would begin his Moonlight acting career in the 1996 production of the musical, “Peter Pan”, as Captain Hook’s boatswain mate, Smee, under the direction of the founding artistic director of Moonlight Amphitheatre, Kathy Brombacker. As the current artistic director of Moonlight and the director of the 2016 version of “Peter Pan”, Mr. Glaudini has seen all phases of this award winning musical. Mr. Glaudini said, “Moonlight is committed to bringing one family show a year to the Moonlight summer stage and we are excited that “Peter Pan” is this year’s production.”
You could see the magic in his eyes as he described the sets, costumes, the different story lines and special effects this production will have. He alluded to several special effects and surprises that audience members will see as the timeless story of Peter Pan unfolds on stage. And to those that say, I don’t know if I will see the musical, I know the story, Mr. Glaudini says, “But have you seen it at the Moonlight, on this stage, a magical, epic story that the whole family will love and be amazed with as special things will happen.”
The creation of the Peter Pan story is an interesting one. The original book began as a minor part of an adult novel by Scottish novelist and playwright, J.M. Barrie. Mr. Barrie had written a novel called The Little White Bird in 1902. In one of the chapters, “Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens”, Peter appeared as a 7 day old baby. He was convinced to expand the development of this character, so in 1906 he pulled chapters 13-18 out of the original novel, added to them and with the illustrations of Arthur Rackham, Peter Pan appeared. Barrie developed Peter based on his older brother David, who died in an ice skating accident before his 14th birthday. Peter appears in the novel as a boy between 12-13 years old. The idea behind Peter Pan is a boy that will never grow old or grow up, in some ways his feelings about his deceased brother. The name Peter comes from one of the 5 Davies boys Barrie knew in London and Pan comes from a minor Greek deity who plays pan pipes and if half human and half goat. In the “Kensington Gardens” chapters Barrie has Peter ride a goat. In the novel Peter Pan always has pan pipes with him.
Barrie would write a play, “Peter Pan – The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”, which premiered on December 27, 1904, in London, and later as a novel, published in 1911, under the title Peter & Wendy. Traditionally on stage the title role of Peter Pan is played by a petite adult woman. The daughter of the original director played the first Peter Pan on stage. There have been some variations of this. In the 1991 Steven Spielberg movie, “Hook”, Robin Williams was a grown, married with children Pan and in the 1953 animated film by Disney, Peter Pan appears as a boy. A recent movie, “Pan”, has a villainous Hugh Jackman portraying the pirate Blackbeard. In the popular television show, “Once Upon a Time”, Peter Pan is not only a boy, but is more of a villain, played by Robbie Kay and is also Rumpelstiltskin’s father (who kills Peter) and Hook is a romantic lead. Barrie would introduce all of the popular characters that have appeared in a variety of ways in the different movies and musicals. These include Wendy, John and Michael Darling, Nana the sheep dog (usually played by a human in a costume in the musicals), Tiger Lily, Great Big Little Panther, the Lost Boys, Captain Hook, Smee, the Crocodile and Tinker Bell. Originally, Tinker Bell appears in the musicals as a tiny flashing light. In the Robin Williams movie, “Hook”, Tinker Bell is played by a CG miniaturized Julia Roberts.
The “Peter Pan” musical first appeared in San Francisco on July 19, 1954 for a 4 week run. The next stop would be at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway on October 20, 1954. The Broadway production
starred Mary Martin as Peter Pan, with music by Jule Styne, Mark Charlap and Trude Rittmann and lyrics by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Carolyn Leigh. The musical won three Tony Awards. One for Ms. Martin as Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical. Cyril Ritchard would win for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical and Richard Rodda would win for Best Stage Technician for designing the flying mechanisms Ms. Martin would use in the musical to simulate Pan flying. In 1955, the musical appeared on NBC television, again in 1956 and 1960. Most recently, a 2014 production of “Peter Pan” appeared on television. Other Peter Pan’s have included Sandy Duncan and former Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby. Some of the memorable songs that came out of the musical include “I’ve Gotta Crow”, “I’m Flying”, “I Won’t Grow Up”, “Pirate Song” and “Never Never Land”.
The Moonlight production of “Peter Pan” will return after a 20 year absence and will feature costumes and incredible sets from the Cathy Rigby production and yes, Peter will fly (as well as the Darling kids), with flying effects provided by ZFX, Inc. under the guidance of Shad Ramsey. Audience members should try to take in as much as you can from the nursery scene sets as the detail is amazing, focus especially on the paintings on the wall and the wall paper designs. Supporting cast members for the Moonlight production will include Robert J. Townsend as Hook, James Vasquez as Smee, Jill Townsend as Wendy, Elliot Weaver as John, Jacob Farry as Michael, Celeste Lanzua as Tiger Lily and Quinton Walker as the Crocodile.
The largest outdoor theatre in San Diego County has tickets available for “Peter Pan” by calling 760-724-2110 or go to www.vistixonline.com . A portion of the royalties for the production of “Peter Pan” will go to the Great Ormund Street Hospital, a children’s hospital, that received the copyright to “Peter Pan” from Mr. Barrie in 1929. Seeing this musical is a chance to reach back into your childhood with a classic tale and a time to remember when you didn’t want to grow up.