Southeastern's 'Peter Pan' has timeless appeal for kids, adults
Contact: Christina Chapple
Click on thumbnail for high resolution photo(1) (2) (3)
(1) HARD AT WORK REHEARSING -- Guest director Brandt Blocker rehearses young cast members in a scene from the Southeastern Louisiana University Opera/Music Theatre Workshop’s June 26-27 production of “Peter Pan” at the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts. From left, are, front row, Bryce Ducorbier and Connor Scott of Hammond and Parker Ramirez of Ponchatoula; second row, Emily Hines of Ponchatoula, Mary Frances Chauvin of Hammond, Chloe Vallot and Katy Stansbury of Ponchatoula; third row, Blocker, Sally Duhon and Lizzie Duhon of Mandeville.
(2) PETER AND THE LOST BOYS -- Peter Pan (Bridget Lyons of Ponchatoula), second from right, and her “Lost Boys” (from right, Connor Scott of Hammond, Lizzie Duhon of Mandeville, Parker Ramirez of Ponchatoula and Blake Alexis Tabor of Mandeville), find a stricken Wendy (Alyssa Carranza of Lafayette) in a scene from the Southeastern Louisiana University Opera/Music Theatre Workshop’s June 26-27 production of “Peter Pan.”
(3) HOOK AND SMEE – No telling what mischief Captain Hook, Colby McCurdy of Slidell, left, and his pirate sidekick Smee, Scott McDonough, also of Slidell, are plotting in this scene from “Peter Pan.” The Southeastern Louisiana University Opera/Music Theatre Workshop musical opens June 26 at the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts.
HAMMOND – “Peter Pan” may be a story about the magic of childhood and the inevitability of aging, but, ironically, the musical itself never grows old.
It has been enchanting audiences since Mary Martin first swooped across the Broadway stage in 1954, making young and old believe that fairy dust and “lovely thoughts” can whisk you away to Never Land, the magical world of Peter and the Lost Boys, temperamental Tinker Bell, dastardly Captain Hook, and that ominously ticking crocodile.
The Tony Award-wining musical, based on J.M. Barrie’s beloved turn of the century characters, has been successfully revived on Broadway by actress Sandy Duncan and gymnast Cathy Rigby and is a perennially popular production choice for school and theater troupes across the country – including Southeastern Louisiana University’s Opera/Music Theatre Workshop, which has selected “Peter Pan” as its 2009 summer musical.
The Opera/Music Theatre Workshop will stage “Peter Pan” June 26 at 7:30 p.m., and June 27 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., at Southeastern’s Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts in downtown Hammond.
To direct the show, workshop director Charles Effler has invited back Brandt Blocker, now artistic director of the Atlanta Lyric Theatre. A much-honored veteran of the New Orleans music theater scene, Blocker directed Southeastern’s spring 2007 production of the comic opera “Too Many Sopranos,” a huge hit with audiences and critics alike.
“I loved my experience here last time,” said Blocker. “The show was so well received, and I made such a great connection with the kids. I was so proud of the program and to just be a small part of it.”
Blocker is joining “Peter Pan” three weeks into rehearsals, with two weeks to go. But Southeastern’s production will benefit from the fact that he directed the musical two years ago when he first made the move to Atlanta Lyric Theatre. “I know what works and what doesn’t, the challenges,” he said. Another plus, he added, is reconnecting with “Sopranos” cast members such as Southeastern students and alumni Colby McCurdy, who plays Capt. Hook and Mr. Darling; Scott McDonough, Hook’s sidekick Smee; and “pirates” Brandon Wear and Chris Giffin.
Blocker selected the cast long distance after viewing “hours and hours,” he said, of videotaped auditions and recommendations sent to him by Effler and Southeastern voice professor and choral director Alissa Rowe. He is particularly enthusiastic about Bridget Lyons, the Southeastern music major from Ponchatoula, who has the title role. “She’s an incredible actress, singer and dancer,” Blocker said. “She’s going to have an incredible career, so remember the name.”
“It’s a great cast,” he said. “They’ve jumped right into it and they’re going to do a beautiful job.”
Blocker said the universal popularity of “Peter Pan” stems from its “ageless, timeless story” that appeals to children and adults alike.
“It’s just a very special show,” he said. “It makes us face the reality that we will grow old, but there’s always something about wanting to hold on to the belief that you could remain a child. We all, in one way or another, would love to hold on to that.”
And then, of course, there’s the flying.
The actual mechanics of swinging Peter and the Darling children back and forth across the Columbia Theatre stage will be handled by ZFX, “one of the companies that you call when you want to do flying and get it right,” said Blocker. “You don’t want to take it on yourself, for safety reasons!” The company will arrive in town on June 20 and work with the cast for the final week.
“They are the professionals who know how to get the maximum look out of the flying effects,” Blocker said. “They will direct them on how to hold their arms, what sort of movements to make so that it will really look like they’re flying.”
Although the prospect of twirling as high as 20 feet in the air might seem a bit daunting for some actors, “The cast is excited, they can’t wait to do it,” Blocker added. “That’s the reason you want to be in ‘Peter Pan’!”
Blocker admits that like most in the audience, the flying is his favorite part of “Peter Pan,” especially Peter’s first airborne appearance.
“You start to hear the tinkling music … and the widows open … and here comes Peter flying into the nursery. It’s the best part of the show and everyone’s waiting for it,” he laughed.
“What’s nice about ‘Peter Pan’ is that the show itself is great, the songs are terrific, some are even moving,” Blocker said. “It’s so much more than the flying – but that’s what people are coming to see. We know it’s a wire on some sort of track, but we don’t care! It’s still fun to watch and get lost in the idea that they’re flying around the stage.”
Tickets for “Peter Pan” are on sale online at www.columbiatheatre.org and at the Columbia Theatre box office, 220 E. Thomas St., (985) 543-4371, from noon-4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Ticket prices for adults are $24, Orchestra 1/Loge; $21, Orchestra 2; $18, Balcony 1; and $15, Balcony 2. A $1 box office fee will be added to each ticket. Ticket prices for senior citizens, 60 and older, and children, 12 and younger, are $22, Orchestra 1/Loge; $19, Orchestra 2; $16, Orchestra 3/Balcony 1; and $13, Balcony 2.
Southeastern students will be admitted free to Balcony 2 seating with their university I.D.
“Peter Pan” is made possible through the major financial support of Southeastern’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts; the Department of Music and Dramatic Arts and Opera/Music Theatre Workshop. Funding has also been provided from the Louisiana State Arts Council and the Louisiana Division of the Arts and the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge through the Decentralized Arts Funding Program.
Additional financial support has been provided by North Oaks Health System, Tangipahoa Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau, Brown Morris Pharmacy, Elois Effler and family, Fay and Phelan Bright, Microtel (Michelle Aycock), and Dr. Robert McMinn and Dr. Michael Turgeau.
For more information, contact Effler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 985-549-2249.