BEVERLY – There’s a group of young children sitting in the front row at North Shore Music Theatre Thursday night. Their eyes are bright and wide and they’re constantly smiling, except when their mouths are agape in wonder, mesmerized by the airborne antics of Peter Pan, Captain Hook and other frequent fliers who zoom around the theater.
That says it all. Who cares what a crotchety old critic thinks about this production of “Peter Pan?”
Actually, this crotchety old critic enjoyed the show almost as much as the kids did. But then, he’s always refused to grow up.
“Peter Pan” is one of those classic musicals that continues to thrill new audiences and evoke memories from those of us who marveled at the production starring Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard on our black-and-white TVs more than 50 years ago. (Interesting factoid: Lynn English High grad Jack Noseworthy is the only male actor to have played Peter Pan on Broadway.)
Elena Ricardo plays Peter here and she soars, capturing the childlike amazement and innocence of the boy who vows to never grow up. The role is demanding, but she successfully navigates the physical and vocal gymnastics with ease. Did that operatic passage really come from that tiny pixie?
Beverly native James Beaman is a hoot as villainous Captain Hook, the swiniest swine to ever sail the seven seas. He clearly is having a ball on stage, and his enthusiasm is contagious.
His groveling sidekick Smee, played with gusto and wit by Paul Castree, recalls Marty Feldman at his most eye-poppingly zany.
Kate Fitzgerald is solid as Wendy Darling, the adventurous teen who brings her brothers John Napoleon (played by Jake Ryan Flynn of Wenham) and Michael on the journey to Neverland, which Peter calls home.
Kathy St. George, a Stoneham native and Salem State graduate, per usual, is excellent as Mrs. Darling and a grown-up Wendy. Ian Shane deserves praise for scooting and slithering across the stage as the dog Nana and the hungry crocodile that has a hankering for Hook’s other hand.
The ensemble cast is spectacular, whether performing the intricate, athletic dance numbers, portraying the love-starved Lost Boys or tickling the funny bone as the wacky band of pirates.
Director Bob Richard and choreographer Diane Laurenson, the team that helmed winning NSMT productions of “The Music Man” last year and “West Side Story” in 2016, keep the action moving at a rapid pace.
North Shore Music Theatre’s high-flying “Peter Pan” is truly something to crow about. It’ll awaken the child in even the most crotchety of us all.