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Disney's trip to Neverland is mid-summer musical treat

From left, Déja Crenshaw, Cassandra Ferrell and Daisy Kay portrary well-known charters in Disney's "Peter Pan Jr." at Laurel Mill Playhouse
From left, Déja Crenshaw, Cassandra Ferrell and Daisy Kay portrary well-known charters in Disney's "Peter Pan Jr." at Laurel Mill Playhouse (Photo by John Cholod)

Beneath the second star to the right, and straight on till curtain call, the Laurel Mill Playhouse on Main Street beckons kids of all ages to an evening of enchanting musical theater.

Directed here by Rebecca Feibel-Kotraba, with musical direction by T. J. Lukacsina and choreography by Rebekka Meyer, and produced by Laila Riazi and Maureen Rogers, of Laurel, Disney's "Peter Pan Jr." tells the timeless story of the boy who wouldn't grow up. created by Scottish playwright J. M. Barrie more than a century ago.

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Performed by 33 talented actors ranging in age from 6 to 18 from all over the tri-county area, the Playhouse's summer youth production plays as sweetly in 2014 as the NBC-owned musical starring Mary Martin did to oldsters in its audience.

Disney's play was adapted from the classic Broadway book to introduce youngsters to musical theater with simple staging (no flying is required). And Feibel-Kotraba's production team has created some interesting design elements on the intimate stage.

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Laurel residents in the cast include Julia Clement, Cassandra Ferrrell, Mary Kilgallon, Rachel Kilgallon, Kaitlyn Johnston-Napora, Matthew Miller, Brooke Miller, Nathaniel Thompson and Eli Thompson.

Stage manager Zach Sager does a good job of keeping the show moving and on track in spite of some complicated scene changes.

As they enter, audience members familiar with the theater will note the addition of shimmery sky-blue curtains to the proscenium stage — tech designer Kevin Brennan illuminates these with effects that suggest an enchanted island, fairy dust and good old show-time magic during the opening prelude.

Fetching Playhouse regular Jaden Burnett, as Tinker Bell, and an ensemble of fairies open the show beautifully in "Fly to Your Heart."

The fairies remove the curtains to unveil a night skyline painted on an upstage wall panel that overlooks the Darling children — played by Mary Kilgallon (Wendy), Nathaniel Thompson (John) and Lily Kay (Michael) — with Nana in the nursery.

The center-stage nursery's bed, built by set designer Eddie Arrendondo, will change cleverly into a pirate ship as the story progresses.

A pretty stage-right window draped in lace leads the way through the backdrop and "fly" space to Neverland and elsewhere as the story travels and adapts to various locales.

Adorable costumes, some on loan from other theaters in a joint effort assisted by the families of cast members, are obviously great fun to wear. And the cuddly animal costumes worn by Dave Martinek as Nana and Owen McCloskey as the Crocodile fit gently into the show's innocent childhood theme.

The tech and production elements are arty, but it's the youth in all their natural beauty who steal the show. Guided aptly by Lukacsina and Meyer, 17 well-rehearsed song and dance numbers speak to the talent and hard work invested by all.

Classic Peter Pan favorites such as "The Second Star to the Right," "You Can Fly," "Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me" and "Following the Leader" have been modernized with new arrangements in the "Peter Pan Jr." score, and the cast and ensemble perform them well.

As the motherly storyteller and swaggering young adventurer, Mary Kilgallon as Wendy and Johnson-Napora as Peter Pan deliver delightfully believable characters that ring as true as the stars that point the way to Neverland.

Their clear vocals — along with those of the pirates, the vatives, the Lost Boys, the fairies and the mermaids in the ensemble — are often spot on and always passionate.

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Daisy Kay also sings well and plays Captain Hook with delightful wickedness, balancing her character's villainy with a cheerful demeanor appropriate for viewers of all ages. And Miller as Smee finds moments to shine as Hook's comic relief.

One of many memorable moments is delivered by Ferrell as Tiger Lily during "What Makes a Man Brave" when she sings to Wendy: "Native girls know many boys have pride so big it burst; just remind him what he did, a girl no doubt did first."

And one of the smallest cast members, Lily Kay as Michael Darling, is always a showstopper.

"Peter Pan Jr." continues through Aug. 24, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. General admission is $20. Students 18 and under, active duty military and seniors, 65 and over, pay $15. Tickets can be purchased online at  laurelmillplayhouse.orghttp://www.laurelmillplayhouse.org, or call 301-617-9906 and press 2.

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