‘Peter Pan’ soars with youthful energy at the box

Captain Hook (Jack Rankin, left) does battle with Peter Pan (Gabriel Hagedorn) in a scene from The Box Theatre Co.’s “Disney’s Peter Pan Jr.”

Captain Hook (Jack Rankin, left) does battle with Peter Pan (Gabriel Hagedorn) in a scene from The Box Theatre Co.’s “Disney’s Peter Pan Jr.”



Published Dec. 3, 2018

Parents who want to introduce their children to live theater should look no further than The Box in Oconomowoc.

The cozy little box theater is currently presenting the family-friendly “Disney’s Peter Pan Jr.,” a fast-paced, 75-minute (with intermission) romp through Neverland, complete with “flying” characters, pirates, sword fights and daring rescues.

Directors (and The Box owners) Allison Chicorel and Timothy Barnes make great use of the small stage, extending the stage to a small ledge, accessible by ladder, a catwalk, the main aisles and other nooks and crannies for the 23 youngsters to romp in. And romp they do. No one stays still for very long in this show, its near constant movement always pushing the fun story forward.

The story is all there, although songs that adults might remember from other productions, such as “I’ve Gotta Crow” and “I’m Flying,” are not in this version. But there are some wonderful tunes, including the lovely “Second Star to the Right,” nicely rendered here, with Ivy Broder’s sweet, lilting vocal taking the lead.

The show features a wonderful trio of Darling (and they are darling, too) children. In split casting, Broder played Wendy in the performance we attended (Ellie Szczech plays the role in half the shows) and did a marvelous job, especially with her convincing British accent, as did William Kastner and Cameron Krieser playing her brothers, John and Michael.

Wendy is admonished by her parents (Jack Rankin and Marin Jurgens) for spending so much time with her brothers making up fantasies. Says Wendy, “I don’t want to grow up if it means being a proper lady.”

Soon after, Peter Pan shows up. It’s actually Gabriel Hagedorn, who takes charge of the willing youngsters as he flies them off to Neverland. Hagedorn’s Peter stays fully engaged, whether hiding in the wings or fighting Captain Hook. He never loses Peter’s abundance of boastfulness – chin up with each line exuding confidence – and adventurous spirit. Wendy calls him “conceited,” at one point saying, when someone thinks Peter will save them, “No he won’t. Peter thinks only of himself.”

Peter’s sidekick is the darling little Tinkerbell, played with a practical, no-nonsense demeanor by the charming Natalie Rhodes. Tink gets Peter out of all sorts of jams  with her magical powers, portrayed nicely by Rhodes, who merely snaps her fingers to create a little magic.

In Neverland, Peter, Tinkerbell and the Darling children meet the diabolical Captain Hook (Rankin) and his toady, Smee (Jurgens), and lots of trouble follows. Jurgens gives an animated portrayal of Hook’s right-hand man (pun intended) and has a nice, British way with a line, like when she tells Captain Hook, “I thought you liked your hook, for combing your hair and scratching.” Rankin has a confident, commanding presence for Hook, but perhaps could have slowed down a bit to make his lines more understandable.

The action in Neverland is non-stop as we meet the pirates, who offer the rousing tune of their lifestyle of plundering and looting in “Yo Ho A Pirate’s Life for Me,” nicely sung and danced.

Perhaps the centerpiece of the show is the Act I ending featuring the rescue of Tiger Lily, well-portrayed by Evelyn Bartos, and the song “What Makes the Brave Man Brave,” featuring some of Chicorel’s creative choreography, nicely executed here.

Reagan Russ and Abbi Steinhaus displayed some pleasant harmonies for their characters in the opening number and the “Sunbeams & Sea” tunes. Their gauzy pastel costumes and hair added a fitting fairy tale look, as did Tinkerbell’s glittery green outfit.

The cast handled the music and dancing well under Chicorel’s direction and kept well-engaged throughout.

The simple set, with quickly and quietly folding backdrops, and minimal props kept disruptions to a minimum. A few strobe effects and cast movement, plus some occasional fog, added visual appeal and movement … the energy of the cast kept it going.

If you go

Who: The Box Theatre Co.

What: “Disney’s Peter Pan Jr.”

When: Through Dec. 16

Where: W359 N5920 Bro0564wn St., Oconomowoc

Info/Tickets: 262-560-0564; www.boxtheatreco.org