By Fiona Sauder and Reanne Spitzer. Directed by Deb Williams. A Carousel Theatre for Young People production. At the Waterfront Theatre on Saturday, November 23. Continues until January 5
The story of Peter Pan has captivated the imaginations of children for generations. And despite the many different interpretations of J.M. Barrie’s story over the years, Carousel Theatre for Young People has found a unique and refreshing way to tell this beloved tale.
This version impresses with its creative staging by director Deb Williams, and with its contemporary flair, thanks to a modern pop/folk-style musical score by Landon Doak.
In CTYP’s version of Bad Hats Theatre’s Peter Pan, written by Fiona Sauder and Reanne Spitzer, we’re taken to a playful space where theatrical magic happens right before our eyes without the use of extravagant sets or effects. Actors transform into different characters in front of us, props are resourcefully pulled out from treasure chests, and instruments such as a piano, ukulele, and guitars are used as needed by the cast to provide accompaniment and sound effects. And whenever you think “How can they pull that off?” (such as flying), Williams and choreographers Wendy Gorling and Amanda Testini cleverly make things work through the creative movement of the actors, and using the resources available on-stage.
With a few quick adjustments of Kiara Lawson’s functional costume, we see Marlene Ginader effortlessly transform from Mrs. Darling into Tinkerbell. Later in the show, she puts on a striped sweater, hunches her posture, and becomes the pirate Starkey. And she’s not alone in this shapeshifting. With a flip of their reversible hats and a few other minor adjustments, we see the Lost Boys turn into Captain Hook’s gang of pirates. It’s all great fun to watch.
Doak’s contemporary score, which evokes shades of Mumford & Sons, adds to the show’s unique flavour. From the sultry tango “Hook’s Lament”, to the audience-participatory “Do You Believe in Fairies”, to the soaring “Flying Home”, Doak’s songs are wonderfully catchy.
Leading the way as Peter Pan is the fierce Kaitlyn Yott. Fearlessly flying across the stage, sword-fighting with pirates, and dealing with the emotional complexities of newfound love, Yott is a strong balance of moxie and vulnerability. As Yott’s villainous counterpart Captain Hook, Josue Laboucane is a ton of fun. He brings cheeky, confident swagger in “Hook’s Lament”, combining entertaining comedic timing with finesse; I’ve never seen Captain Hook dance so well before.
Ginader is fabulous in her triple-character performance of Tinkerbell, Mrs. Darling, and Starkey. In fact, make that a quadruple-role performance, as Ginader pulls out a violin during the show and becomes a musician. In each of her roles, Ginader skillfully shifts her physicality and vocal delivery—from prim and proper as Mrs. Darling, to bratty and mischievous as Tinkerbell.
The heart of the Peter Pan story is its celebration of imagination—something that this production nicely embodies, as it guides audience members in using their own imagination to complete the experience. The show makes no attempt to disguise the fact that John and Michael are played by females (Tessa Trach and Paige Fraser). And at one point, with the clever use of a cloth sheet, we see an underwater battle between Peter Pan and Captain Hook take place.
In the question-and-answer period that followed the opening performance, a little girl in the audience asked about the ball that Ginader uses to symbolize tiny Tinkerbell flying about the stage. When asked by an actor if she thought Tinkerbell was real, the little girl responded “Yes”—proving this production’s imaginative qualities will take many children to Neverland this holiday season.