Audience members of any age are likely to enjoy the musical version of "Peter Pan" at Toby's Dinner Theatre of Columbia, but its ideal spectators stand less than five feet tall. As family-friendly entertainment goes, this show is really about kids and for kids.
Just as the title character vows to never grow up, the show itself retains the thematic attributes that appeal to those who are young and those who are young at heart. It also doesn't hurt that its source is a classic J.M. Barrie story that was adapted by such Broadway veterans as composers Morris "Moose" Charlap and Jule Styne, and lyricists Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
Theatergoers of a certain age will recognize those names, but theatergoers of any age will appreciate a streamlined version of the familiar story that gives you everything you expect.
Yes, Peter Pan and the Darling family's three children fly through the air. You won't mindthat the metal cables are so visible, because you can rest assured that the performers will safely earn their frequent flier miles.
Yes, Captain Hook is cartoonishly mean. Yes, there are pirates, Indians,the mysterious light source known as Tinker Bell, a crocodile and other exotic stage creatures. They inhabit a Neverland setting whose moral lessons pertain to our everyday world.
This musical will only fly as high as the actor portraying the title character, of course, and the Toby's production is fortunate to have a spirited performance by MaryKate Brouillet as Peter Pan. This actor's engaging smile, boundless energy and perpetual self-confidence make you completely believe such musical numbers as "I Gotta Crow."
There's also a nice rapport between this Peter Pan and the Darling children: Wendy (Katie Tyler), John (Jace Francoalternating with Brian Rusk) and Michael (Anderson Franco alternating with Gavin Willard).
Most of the story involves Peter and these kids flying off to Neverland and having bizarre adventures there. The comfortable middle-class home the kids left behind is presided over by their parents, Mrs. Darling (Heather Marie Beck) and Mr. Darling (David Bosley-Reynolds).
This well-acted production features solid work by performers in large and small roles alike, but special mention must be made of Bosley-Reynolds. He actually plays two very different roles. As Mr. Darling, his Victorian-era formality barely conceals his paternal affection. As Captain Hook, he's a swaggering villain who makes no attempt to conceal his evil intentions.
For the record, Bosley-Reynolds sports his customary bald head as Mr. Darling and then wears a massive wig withcascading black curls as Captain Hook. That range of hair styles is in the service of two roles that demonstrate this actor's versatility.
Co-directed by Toby Orenstein and Mark Minnick, with choreography by Minnick, and musicaldirection by Brandon Fullenkamp, this production has some of its most enjoyable moments in ensemble numbers that completely indulge in the material's whimsical side. Watching a chorus of pirates do a tango in one scene and subsequently a tarantella in another scene is not something you see every day. Of course, this is just another day in Neverland.
"Peter Pan" runs through June 12 at Toby's Dinner Theatre, 5900 Symphony Woods Road in Columbia. Tickets are $41.50- $60. Call 410-730-8311 or go to www.tobysdinnertheatre.com