Composer George Stiles and lyricist Anthony Drewe's adaptation of the Neverland tale get its American premiere at Philadelphia's Prince Music Theater, opening Dec. 18 following previews from Dec. 11. Performances play to Dec. 29.
Peter Pan and Wendy features a new score of 15 songs by Stiles and Drewe with a new book by Willis Hall, based on the Barrie story and play about the boy who wouldn't grow up. The property is well known for its Broadway musical version by Carolyn Leigh and Moose Charlap (seen in revival in recent years with Cathy Rigby) and for the (unrelated) Disney animated feature. Prince Music Theater associate artistic director Ted Sperling helms the new musical for the Pennsylvania not-for-profit devoted to music theatre.
Rita Gardner (Broadway's Mornings at Seven, original Luisa in The Fantasticks) stars as the Storyteller, Christopher Innvar (Broadway's Les Misérables, Victor/Victoria) takes on Captain Hook and Mr. Darling, Romain Frugé (Broadway's The Full Monty, Tommy) plays his sideman, Smee, and Joanna Glushak (Broadway's Sweet Smell of Success, Sunday in the Park with George) takes on Mrs. Darling. Peter and Wendy are played by Michael Longoria and Erica Piccininni.
The design team includes Fred Kinney (sets), Howell Binkley (lights), Loyce Arthur (costumes) and Nick Kourtides (sound). Myra Bazell handles choreography. Puppets used the production are created by Philadelphia native Kim Meyer.
The 14-piece orchestra plays orchestrations by John Cameron, with musical direction by Louis F. Goldberg. The cast totals 30, with more than a dozen local children involved. The staging is set in post World War II London, a time of refugee children and absent parents.
Sticking with their track record for turning children's stories into musical theatre gold, Stiles and Drewe previously told Playbill On-Line (January 2002) they are creating the tentatively-titled Soho Cinders, a modern Cinderella tale "set in Soho, in an internet cafe." The Soho of the title is meant to be the London neighborhood, but Drewe said they are keeping it general enough that it could be set in the downtown Manhattan locale named for being south of Houston Street.
How did Drewe and composer Stiles meet? The writer started out wanting to direct, although his studies at Exeter university focused on biology and zoology. "I thought I was going to be a biology teacher," Drewe said. "Yet I am from a very musical family. My older brother, who is two years older than me, has written five or six musicals — he's a composer. When I went to university, I started directing my brother's musicals with a student company at a professional theatre, which happened to be in the middle of the university campus. It was run all-year round as a professional rep company but they would allow the Gilbert and Sullivan Society to have a week, and I formed this new company called Stage Door, just to do new musicals. And they let me have a week. In my second year at university I directed one of my brother's shows. In my third year at university I directed another of my brother's shows, and George Stiles was in the cast. I knew he was a talented composer. Literally, after the last night of that show, in 1983, I said, 'Would you like to try to write a musical?'"
Honk! has made the loudest noise for Drewe and Stiles. The show has played Denmark, Tel Aviv, in American regional theatres and Asian productions have sprouted.
"George and I went out for the opening [in Denmark] because that's where Hans Andersen came from, so it meant a lot that we were being accepted in his home town," Drewe said.
For tickets to Peter Pan and Wendy at the Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street (at Broad Street) in Philadelphia, PA, call (215) 569-9700 or visit them online at www.princemusictheater.org.