by Lynn on December 21, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, Ont.

Written by J. M. Barrie

Adapted by Fiona Sauder and Reanne Spitzer

Directed by Severn Thompson

Production designer, Amy Marie Wallace

Lighting by Ken MacKenzie

Music by Landon Doak

Choreography by Reanne Spitzer

Cast: Jocelyn Adema

Andrew Cameron

Graham Conway

Landon Doak

Matthew Finlan

Richard Lam

Lena Maripuu

Mark Pilipiak

Victor Pokinko

Fiona Sauder

Tal Shulman

Reanne Spitzer

Magic happens again as Bad Hats Theatre brings its exuberant production of Peter Pan back to the Young Centre for another year.

 Fiona Sauder and Reanne Spitzer have done a fine job of adapting J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan for the stage. It’s pared down, economical in the story-telling and goes like the wind. The book is read by an ‘adult’ (Matt Pilipiak) who provides the context. Peter Pan is still the boy who never wants to grow up; he still leads the lost boys; Wendy Darling and her brothers Michael and John still fly off on this great adventure, and Captain Hook is still bedeviled by a crocodile that ticks as it approaches because it swallowed a clock, along with Hook’s hand. Our belief in fairies is still tested by not in a way we are used too. It works a treat.

But this version doesn’t have Nana the dog taking care of them when the Darling parents go out; there’s much less exposition because we don’t really need it. We know the story, or can ‘get it’ with some hints.

Severn Thompson’s imaginative direction is masterful. The result is a production full of exuberant whimsy, energetic child’s play and buoyant singing and dancing by the cast. This is a production devoid all the paraphernalia of a big budget production and of course does not have complicated technology of wires and flying apparatus. Peter Pan (Fiona Sauder) still flies—the cast lift him up over their heads so he is parallel to the floor, he puts his arms out in a flying pose and is carried around the space, flying. Simple.

Fiona Sauder is ‘boyish-confident’ in tights, form-fitting vest, and a short hair cut with her hair flipped out and over her forehead, held in place by ‘product’ I should imaging. This Peter Pan is sweetly arrogant, curious, forthright and very sure of himself. Wendy bosses him and he doesn’t mind. There’s devilishness in Sauder’s performance.

Graham Conway plays a stodgy Mr. Darling and a scaredy-cat Captain Hook who is scared by everything it seems, but puts on a great show to appear formidable.

Many of the cast do double and triple duty. Fiona Sauder co-adapted the script and stars as Peter Pan; Reanne Spitzer also co-wrote the adaptation with Sauder, plays Tinkerbell and Mrs. Darling, and choreographed the production. Landon Doak plays Michael Darling with wide-eyed innocent and composed the wonderful, lively music.  The whole cast seems to play many instruments. Percussion is provided by the rhythmic rapping on a wood box. Others play the piano, guitar, ukulele, mandolin, and bells.

The most important aspect of a show like this is the audience’s imagination. A blanket over a trunk with the three darling children sitting close to the trunk with the blanket under their chins morphs into our believing the children are in bed, ready for a story. A ball with glitter on it, tossed around from character to character, accompanied by a chirpy voice speaking mainly gibberish with a few recognizable words, becomes Tinkerbell (Reanne Spitzer is pure delight as she seriously babbles the gibberish and slides in the word or two that makes us understand the whole thought). I won’t specify how they create the crocodile; needless to say you will not look at an ordinary trunk again in the same way.

Young children are invited to sit on blankets on the floor mere inches from the action. The cast come and chat them up before the show starts and as the audience is filing in. After that the show starts and they are off in a shot. The playing is fearless, joyful and exuberant. A perfect show for the holidays.

 Soulpepper Theatre Company and Bad Hats Theatre present:

Began: Dec. 8, 2018.

Closes: Jan. 5, 2019.

Running Time: 75 minutes.

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