REVIEW: Miami University’s PETER PAN

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Our region’s theatres have Peter Pan fever it seems.  Miami University is the first of at least four versions of the show I’ll see in the next year (this was a play; the rest will be musicals).  I also suspect that this will be the weakest of the bunch, however I do admire the efforts of those involved.

While I appreciate the creative direction taken, this is a problematic production and its unfortunate because I really want to root for Miami’s theatre department.  One of my favorite actor friends is a graduate of their program and I believe there is much potential here.  Sadly, this show didn’t work for me the way it should have.

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Jeremiah Plessinger as J. M. Barrie in “Peter Pan”

First, let’s talk about the good:

  • I appreciate the effort put forth to add the character of the playwright, J. M. Barrie’s character into the story.  I think I understand what the director, who adapted the show, is going for in spite of the execution.
  • I like dark things, usually, and so I appreciate the way the director attempted to adapt the show to highlight the sadder elements to the story.
  • Adam Joesten’s Peter Pan has really good energy.  I appreciate his effort to make this difficult and somewhat tragic character come alive with the innocent darkness he requires, especially in this dark version of the show.  He has potential and hopefully his talent will be utilized and developed more in future productions
  • Tamara Ljbibratic stood out as Mrs. Darling, as her acting chops were the best on stage.  It’s a shame she didn’t get to do more.
  • I thought the lighting design was good, and the technical effects – especially Tinkerbell flying around the room – was very well done.

And for the not so good:

  • I didn’t like some of the choices that were made in this show, including the inclusion of wild choreography during the scene changes.  I appreciate the attempt to make those scene changes not feel so long, but the energy during those transitions didn’t match the rest of the show and it became quite jarring.
  • The accent of J. M. Barrie is immature and not well developed.  I didn’t see a dialect coach listed in the program, which likely would have helped this young actor find the correct voice.  But frankly, I’d drop the accent all together if it were me.
  • Also, regarding the Barrie character, I did not like the inclusion of him into as many scenes as he was.  The actor was fine, as freshman actors in student directed shows usually are, but asking him to take on such an ambitious role was unfair.  It was confusing much of the time and just too abstract.
  • The traditional request of the audience to clap for Tinkerbell felt out of place as the fourth wall breaking by Peter Pan didn’t happen anywhere else in the show.  I didn’t care for it and I’m not sure this adaption needed it.

Despite my complaints, remember that all of my reviews are simply my singular opinion.  You should never decide not to see a show based on a negative review from me, though I do hope you’ll go to the ones I strongly recommend.  Perhaps some of the kinks will get worked out as the show continues through the weekend and perhaps others will disagree with my impressions of the show.  If you’re near Oxford or a fan of the Peter Pan story, you should go find out for yourself if this is your cup of tea.  I strongly encourage us all to support young performers and productions in the hopes that with more experience they will grow and improve.

PETER PAN runs through May 4th in Studio 88 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  Ticket information as well as more background on the show is available here.  Be sure to pay attention to the parking signs as Miami has really cracked down tightly on restricted parking areas.  It really is a beautiful campus and I can’t say enough nice things about the marketing manager, Jeanne Harmeyer, and the house manager, Carly, as they handled an issue related to a colleague of mine accidentally arriving late (my fault; show time was 7:30 and I told him 8) with class, grace, and customer service skills.  Kudos to them!

 

 

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