In a production where the audience is asked to clap if it believes in magic and fairies, a dress rehearsal of Peter Pan easily accomplished its goal last week in the new, $1.8 million Children's Theatre of Annapolis on Broadneck Peninsula.
Helping to create the magic is Robert Kauffman, the 71-year-old former Anne Arundel Community College performing arts chairman who was lured out of retirement by CTA to direct the opening production for its 286-seat theater. This is the same show that capped his 30-year AACC career in November 2002, a few months before his retirement. Kauffman said in an interview then that he "liked the challenge of Peter Pan, the only show ever repeated during my AACC career."
At intermission Monday, after expressing his admiration for this show, Kauffman said, "I'm so pleased to be working with this group, who I always admired for the talent their casts exhibited to the backstage support from their parents when they came to Pascal Center [at AACC]. This show has another blessing for me in that I get to open another new theater." He opened Pascal Center in 1982.
The result of everyone's work could be seen clearly in Act 1 when, in the middle of Peter's song, "I'm Flying," the nursery set went away, disappearing in sections as the children flew out the window into a starlit sky on their way to Never Land. The flying is provided by Flying by Foy, the flying company that flew Broadway's original Peter Pan, Mary Martin, in 1954.
CTA's production boasts sets that are engineered to break away on cue and an array of costumes including the gown worn by Hayley White as Mrs. Darling to costumes worn by every member of the 33-person cast, including the lost boys, pirates and Indians.
Choreographer Christy Stouffer has rehearsed her talented cast to perfection, and that was clearly evident at Monday's rehearsal. Music direction is by Marsha Goldsmith and Ruth Capobianco.
The young cast ranges in age from 12 to 18. Severna Park Middle School 8th-grader Carly Snyder, age 14, soars high as Peter, conveying the carefree swagger, joy, vulnerability and courage of the boy who refuses to grow up. Snyder sings well enough to do justice to her every song.
Playing Wendy is Bronwyn van Joolen, who just turned 13 and projects surprising maturity in this role that requires a blend of patience, warmth and naivete as the oldest of the three Darling children. Her siblings are played by Michael Baca, 12, as Michael, and Solon Snider, 14, as John, who flew in AACC's 2003 version, then as younger brother Michael.
Playing the dual roles of Mr. Darling and Captain Hook is 17-year-old Adam Timko, a Broadneck High School senior, who is convincing as the children's well-meaning father. Timko's Hook dances a great tango and lively tarantella. Romping along as Hook's sidekick Smee, Miguel Mattia-Uribe adds distinctive flair and humor. All 10 members of the cast of pirates bring zest and life to CTA's production.
Severna Park High School senior Morgan Thomas, 17, is outstanding as Tiger Lily, revealing strong acting skills in addition to superb dancing talents that suggest serious ballet training.
Peter Pan is the ideal show to open this dream-come-true theater, making it truly "a place where dreams are born and time is never planned."
Tickets are $12 and $15 and may be purchased at the door or online at www.childrenstheatreofannapolis.org. Today's performance is at 2 p.m. Performances continue weekends through Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.