REVIEW: CMT’s Peter Pan

Wayne Wright and Joshua Steele

He won’t grow up, he’s boyishly charming, and he’s an adventurous sort, never backing down from a challenge.  This is a Peter Pan I can believe in.  Cincinnati Music Theatre has a hit on their hands with PETER PAN, and its largely because of the work of Joshua Steele that it works so well.

Joshua Steele is Peter Pan

Steele is about as perfectly Pan as one can be physically.  Traditionally the role has been played by a female, but Steele has no trouble making the audience believe that he is a boy and his amazing voice soars on “I Gotta Crow” and “I Won’t Grow Up.”  Steele, who heads up Northern Kentucky’s The Carnegie is a multifaceted man from a very talented family and I was very impressed with his take on the iconic character.  He’s pretty much perfect.

Of course every hero needs a villain and Wayne Wright chews up the scenery (which in this show is a huge compliment) as Captain Hook.  He looks like he’s having a blast and his infectious evil matches Pan’s enthusiasm making for a delightful afternoon at the theatre.

The show features a large ensemble cast.  “Tiger Lilly,” played by Aubrey Wilson, holds up her end of things nicely as does “Wendy,” played by Laura Wacksman.  Wacksman – like Steele – is older than she appears and her youthful nature made her a natural choice.  I also enjoyed the work of Kim Long as “Mrs. Darling” and Leo Long as “Michael” was a standout among the child actors.  Plus, Tara Williams (“Grown-Up Wendy”) shows in the three minutes that she’s on stage why she is one of Cincinnati’s most under utilized actresses.

The technical aspects of the show were quite impressive. This is my first CMT experience and if the productions are always this professional, then I’m sorry I’ve not been to more.  Skip Fenker took on a big directing job and pulled it all together nicely.  The choreography by Mike Fielder is simple but effective.  The set – especially the Darling nursery and Neverland – were fantastic.  I also enjoyed Eric Bardes’ lighting design, especially his creative use of laser light integrated with glow for Tinkerbell.  There are costumes and wigs and props for days and even the program is impressive in its high quality.  My expectations were exceeded, for sure.

Be aware, this show is very popular with families and the matinee I attended was full of bad theatre etiquette from children and parents alike.  Knowing that going in (like when I attended Willy Wonka at the Children’s Theatre) would have prepared me for a less annoying experience.  But even with all the distractions – and there were plenty – I still found PETER PAN to be a delightful way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon.

PETER PAN runs through May 17th in the Jarson-Kaplan Theatre at the Aronoff Center.  For tickets and more information, click here.

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