Monday 4, 2011
MARQUETTE, Mich.—J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan will fly into Northern Michigan University’s Forest Roberts Theatre. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, to Saturday, April 16, with a 1 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for NMU students and available at all NMU EZ Ticket outlets.

The NMU production will create the familiar fantasy of Neverland with pirates, mermaids, the Lost Boys and Tinkerbell. But Director Shelley Russell's unconventional interpretation will also bring the classic play, first performed in 1904, “into the present.”

Audiences should not expect a reworked musical adaptation similar to the ones they may have grown up with—from Disney’s animated treatment to the televised Broadway play starring Mary Martin to the more recent touring productions with former Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby. This is Barrie’s original play. And unlike the director of its early 20th century debut, Russell never contemplated casting a female in the lead role.

“If you read Barrie’s novel and the play, at one point Wendy asks Peter why there are no girls; why it’s only Lost Boys,” said Russell. “He replies that girls are far too clever. There was clear marketing appeal in having a popular female actress appear in tights in 1904. It would have been scintillating to see that. But the character is all boy. I wanted to go with what I think is the right translation. This isn’t an adaptation; we’re doing the script. But I think it’s more truthful with a male actor.”

Because Peter Pan can fly and helps the Darling siblings do the same en route to Neverland, flying sequences are critical to the production. Technical director Kim Hegmegee has helped students prepare for the challenge since September. Her advanced stagecraft class learned about the rigging process and how to choreograph desired flight patterns, culminating in a highly visual performance at the end of last semester.

“We wanted to make flying a fun, entertaining part of the play all by itself,” Russell said. “We’re not trying to pretend that they don’t have wires. We wanted to focus on making what they can do really exciting. At one point, there are four characters in the air. It’s tremendous fun to watch. And it’s a challenge to put an athletic actor in harness, hand him a sword and have him flying while fighting off pirates.”

Russell said another challenge was created by the era in which Barrie wrote the play. She did minor script editing to address his interpretation of Indians.

            In leading roles are: Michael Doak of Grosse Pointe Woods, as Peter Pan; Ciara Brown, of North Las Vegas, Nev., as Tinkerbell; Taylor Kulju, of Ishpeming, as Wendy; Pierce Huxtable, of Neenah, Wis., as John; Jacob Barbot, of Big Rapids, as Michael; and Timmy Grams, of Hesperia, as Captain Hook.

            The remaining cast includes: Kristen Bustrak, of Brule, Wis., as Liza; Darin Casler, of Traverse City, as Smee; Jordayn Fischer of Chicago Heights, Ill. as Slightly; Abby Ropp, Marquette, as Nibs; Aaron Sarka, Marquette, as Bill Jukes and Mr. Darling; Ryan Sitzberger, Waukesha, Wis., as Tootles; Jennifer Skogman, Marquette, as Mrs. Darling; Michael Skrobeck,, Dallas, Texas, as Panther; Josh Starbuck, Bloomingdale, and Brittany Stearns, Grass Lake, as the other Indians; Jim Vincent, Menominee, as the first twin and Jackie Wiles, Paw Paw, as the second twin.  

Marquette area community members who are a part of the cast include: BG Bradley as Gentleman Starkley; Beth Gustafson as Tiger Lily;  Max Lebeaud as Mullins; Raven Locodia as Cookson; Erin Morgan as Jane; John Sarkela as Cecco; David Shahbazi as Noodler; Ricky Vermeulen as Curly; and Jill Vermeulen as Leopard. 

            The cast of mermaids are: Alycia Heckathorn, Ironwood; Jennie Nicholas, Ishpeming; Ashley Schmeling, Marquette; Christine Scotford, Roseville; and Libby Woodford of Waukesha, Wis., as well as community members Amber Fullmer, Erin Morgan, Monica Nordeen and Sophie Shahbazi.

Kristi Evans
News Director