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Cheerful `Pan’ takes off at TCC


Welcome to the wonderful world of “Peter Pan,’ recalling a glorious time when every man was the king of his castle and women were only too happy to stay in their place. Southern Arizona Light Opera Company has come up with a cheerful production of this high-flying musical that Mary Martin first made famous. Really, it wasn’t that long ago.

Yet, though men call all the shots, the role of women is of central importance to this story of a boy who refuses to grow up. Even eternal boys such as Peter know the world is a happier place when Mom’s around. As for girls, well, every boy just has to have them.

Seen today, the closing scene in which Wendy is a grown-up mother of her own daughter, whom Peter promptly tries to steal away, seems more like a metaphor of rock ‘n’ roll.

The musicians, like Peter, hold no magic for adults. But for the next wave of younger people always coming up, the allure of rock musicians is like the allure of Peter himself – irresistible.

And Wendy, now the responsible adult, won’t let her own daughter take the same trip Wendy took with Peter when she was a child. Does the phrase “boomer hypocrisy’ strike a bell here?

There’s more to think about in “Peter Pan’ than you might imagine. The original story by James M. Barrie has been popular for many generations, with good reason.

Dennis Courtney has directed and choreographed the SALOC show with a gentle hand. Rather than flaunting a crisp, lively edge like most Broadway re-creations, this version feels as soft and cuddly as a child’s favorite stuffed animal.

Janet Higgins on opening night turned in a well-considered performance in the title role. Rather than being all eagerness and enthusiasm, making Peter seem more like a bright-eyed candidate for Up With People, Higgins also hints at the sadness in the little guy’s eternal life.

Peter knows he will never have any longtime friends because all the kids forget about him when they grow up. So Peter, who never grows up, has to keep making new friends all the time.

The one-handed villain Capt. Hook, played by Douglas Manes, never seems all that evil, though. His portrayal is soft around the edges. Wearing those purple suits with huge plumed, floppy hats, Capt. Hook seems more like a sailor who can’t quite repress his homosexual tendencies.

We can all identify, though, with Capt. Hook’s irrational fear of the ticking clock in the crocodile. Time does have an insatiable appetite.

Lisa Picotte as young Wendy, the imaginative girl with the authoritarian father, gets a nice buoyancy into the part. She is taller than Peter, but always happy to follow his lead. Once in Neverland she comes a little more into her own.

The technical stuff so essential to “Peter Pan’ is handled well. Of course the Walt Disney animated feature gives a much better feeling of flying over the rooftops of London, but Higgins’ own flying scenes are flawless. Whether she is sword fighting or sailing out a window, it is always a surprise when she takes flight and just keeps going.


* What: Southern Arizona Light Opera Company presents “Peter Pan.’

* When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; again at 8 p.m. Sept. 21-23, 2 p.m. Sept. 23-23.

* Where: Music Hall of the Tucson Convention Center.

* How much: $15 and $30; for details and reservations, 323-7888 or 884-1212.

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