Is it possible to do a production of “Peter Pan” without any flying? It would seem the answer would be no. Actors zipping around the stage on wires has been one of the show’s selling points since J. M. Barrie’s stage play first opened in 1904. Peter Pan flies in the same way Dracula drinks blood or Sherlock Holmes solves mysteries: the action is the character, and it seems pretty much irreducible.
Still, the new children’s production “Peter Pan and Wendy,” a coproduction between Synchronicity and Aurora Theatre, manages a passably cute, scaled-down retelling of the famous story for kids, now at 14th Street Playhouse through December 29. Characters talk and sing about doing it; they rush to a window to take a big leap as the lights go down for a scene change; and they jump onto stage as if they’ve just done it; but they never actually fly.
Alyn Cardarelli and Steve Goers’ new musical adaptation, with its pared down recounting of the classic story, has been a popular choice as a kids’ show at companies around the country since it first rolled out a couple years ago. Theaters that want to put up a production of the famous property — but don’t want to mess with stage wires, harnesses and 20 child actors — finally have an option. There is no flying on stage and no dog-nanny; there are only two Lost Boys, and Wendy Darling is an only child (here they’re all played by adults, as well).
The songs are mediocre but not terrible. Daniel Hilton as Smee and Monte J. Howell as Captain Hook inject a lot of great energy and humor into the show, but without its central conceit — flight — things tend to feel a bit flat and forced from time to time.
The show is definitely for the tiny ones who won’t much notice or mind. The actors occasionally turn to the audience to ask questions, which I imagine is an absolute delight to kids at the right age but a potential embarrassment to kids who’ve gotten too old for it. My layman’s best guess is that 4 to 10 is the sweet spot, but parental judgment is definitely advised. Most of the other elements of the lovely story remain intact, and the thing trots along at a nice clippity-clop until it’s all done at about the hour-and-a-half mark (with one short intermission along the way).
While it’s not a total magical knockout, Synchronicity’s “Peter Pan and Wendy” makes a pleasant option for parents and kids who are either tired of, or not interested in, Christmas shows. Ticket prices are reasonable too, so you can bring a big group without busting the bank. Plus it’s at the 14th Street Playhouse, so combining the show with a trip to the museum, lunch at a Midtown restaurant or a visit to Piedmont Park would make for a nice holiday outing that doesn’t have that skin-blasting, Santa-in-flashing-lights, buy-this, buy-that, caroling, Rudolph sort of feel.
There is a small wreath hung in the nursery, but no one in the Darling family otherwise makes any mention of the holiday. It’s nice to learn the Darling household celebrates Christmas in such a subdued and tasteful way.