Comtra Theatre brings to the stage Peter Pan, fitting for both children and adults. This musical will have you soaring away with laughter as you fly to Neverland. A couple of special features in this production are the pirate band playing in a balcony above, and a casting of young actors/actresses.
Peter Pan is primarily focused around the Darling family, more specifically Wendy Darling, the eldest child. When Wendy finds an unknown boy, Peter Pan, crying in her bedroom it begins their magical adventure to a land where no one grows up. This rendition slightly combines Disney’s two movies of Peter Pan – where Wendy is a child and an adult.
Mandie Russak, who played Peter Pan, brought such a powerful voice to her character. Her singing elevated the roof of the building as her voice filled the entire room. She did a perfect job enveloping Peter Pan’s personality – spunky, childish, yet with a touch of seriousness. Russak was great with the child actors and actresses and always had a smile on her face.
An interesting part about Comtra is it is set up as a “theatre in the round,” or a stage that is surrounded by an audience. This creates a smaller stage, yet more inclusiveness between the actors and audience, thus breaking that fourth wall. It also creates the issue of occasionally having the character’s back towards you – which can be irritating at times. The actors used the whole room to their advantage – from running up the aisles, to appearing from hidden doors located in the corners of the area.
Captain Hook, played by Brady Patsy, is a fuming pirate looking for revenge on Peter Pan for cutting off his hand, leaving him to use a hook as a replacement. Patsy made Hook both a lovable and hateful character. There were funny moments where Captain Hook would get caught in a trap or mistake and Patsy would exaggerate the situation. There were also serious moments that sent shivers down your spine as Patsy sang of “killing all the children.”
The most adorable part of this musical was actually during intermission. A couple of the pirates, along with Tinkerbell, came out and interacted with the audience! The pirates did a splendid job swarming in the kids to get them playing along and taking pictures – even giving them little pirate hats. Tinkerbell, played by Lyla Rose Petrucci, was the most favored participant for pictures.
The child actors were just as precious – from the two little Darling boys – Domenic Petrucci (Michael) and Brett Barthelemy (John), to the Lost Boys – Connor Benson (Slightly), Todd Turner (Tootles), Michael Petrucci (Curly), Noelle Errafaq (Nibs, and Rylan and Reegan Corbin (1st and 2nd twin). They all did a very wonderful job delivering their lines and I was extraordinarily impressed. I give all the little ones a special applause for their courage and willingness to work hard to do this show. Although, it did seem that the Lost Boys were a bit out-of-hand at times – such as when they were all grouped together in a scene. They all did very well, but I would have liked to see a bit more discipline with them.
There were many times when I had difficulty hearing an actor or actress sing or speak. I had no issue being able to hear Russak and Patsy, since they exhorted their voices so well. But everyone else I did have to strain. It was either the band playing too loud at times, or the sound wasn’t turned up fully to pick up the voices, or they simply needed to speak up. In addition to not being able to hear some of the characters, I really wanted to be able to hear Jane’s, played by Olivia DeJeet, narration throughout the musical. Rarely could I hear a word that she spoke. It was either a technicality issue with the microphone she had, or she simply did not know how to speak through it.
A fun addition to the musical was the bands participating. They were all dressed up as pirates and pianist Nick Stamatakis, who played as Mullens, would talk to Captain Hook – such as asking him what tempo to play the music they were about to sing along with. It was even hilarious when Captain Hook accidentally shot Mullens, then Mullens threw himself down onto the piano. Captain Hook also accidentally shot the trombone player and he, too, fell to the ground. Their participation was such a delightful addition to the whole show.
Unfortunately, Peter Pan has already closed but you can see musicals each month and a comedy show at the end of every month at Comtra Theatre in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. Tickets range in price and can be purchased online at www.comtratheatre.org. The next comedy show will be MYQ Kaplan at Comtra Theatre from July 28-29 where tickets will be $25 in advance and $28 at the door. The next musical will be Little Shop of Horrors running from August 4-19 and tickets will be $15.