The once and future Pan
- Paul Duchene
- Portland Tribune - Features
Timeless children's classic gets revived for the Portland stage
More than 20 years after she first played Peter Pan, Adair Chappell and husband Greg Tamblyn are once again taking a leap of faith on the classic tale about the boy who wouldn't grow up.
They've founded their own company, Pixie Dust Productions, to launch a Broadway-sized show at the Newmark Theatre. The sets are so huge they'll barely fit in the building, and the budget exceeds $300,000 Ñ more than double that of the last 'Peter Pan' production in 1991.
'You have to believe,' Chappell says with a laugh.
The lithe Chappell, like her character, has changed so little that initial posters for this production used photos of her and Captain Hook from the 1991 production.
That wouldn't have been possible without the return of Jay Horenstein as Hook, though, at 48, he observes that he doesn't need makeup for lines on his face or gray powder for his hair when he doubles in the role of Mr. Darling.
J.M. Barrie's story of Peter Pan has fascinated audiences Ñ and psychiatrists Ñ for 90 years. Indeed, the term 'Peter Pan syndrome' is applied to people who refuse to grow up.
But superficially at least, this is still a fairy tale, with Wendy and her brothers flying away with Peter to Neverland to battle pirates led by Captain Hook. They are helped by Tinkerbell the fairy, a tribe of Red Indians and the orphaned Lost Boys. When Peter rescues them all (helped by a crocodile with an appetite for pirates), Wendy's parents offer to adopt the Lost Boys.
Chappell, 40, played Peter Pan at the now-defunct Portland Civic Theatre from 1984 to 1991, and the show sold out each year. Rumors that somebody else might revive it galvanized Tamblyn to track down the sets for Cathy Rigby's Tony award-winning Broadway version.
Tamblyn, who'll direct the 16 Portland performances, found the sets in Las Vegas and was able to rent them for this show. He also was lucky enough to discover that Paul Rubin of the aerial artistry company ZFX Flying Illusions in Las Vegas was the same man who had 'flown' his wife 12 years ago, though the technology is far superior now.
'He normally comes in and sets up the show and splits, but he's going to stay here the whole week,' says Tamblyn, who credits the family atmosphere of the show for drawing almost everybody back to it.
'We've been to a lot of weddings of former Lost Boys,' he says. 'People who saw the first show at 10 will be bringing their kids, and people who saw it as adults will be bringing their grandchildren. And they won't be watching the show Ñ they'll be watching the kids.'
Chappell says the phone started ringing once people realized they were serious and composer Jon Newton signed up to conduct the 18-piece orchestra.
'People were calling, offering to sell T-shirts in the lobby for free, just to be involved,' Chappell says.
Chappell and Tamblyn have had two daughters since the last 'Peter Pan.' Ariel, 9, is the eldest, and will be in the show, doubling as Jane (Wendy's daughter in a postscript) and as a Red Indian.
'It's going to be a cold, hard reality for her younger sister Aurora (who's 3) on opening night,' Chappell says philosophically. 'She's been in rehearsal, running around with the Indians, and on opening night she's not going to be there.'
Cherie Price returns to double as Mrs. Darling and Tiger Lily, and Hollie Weikel will play Wendy for the fifth time.
'The last time I saw Hollie, she was 16. Now she has three children,' Chappell says. 'But she walked into the audition, and she looks just the same and still has, the same little voice. We cast her, and her eyes got as big as saucers. I'm eternally Peter Pan, and she's eternally Wendy.'
Peter and Wendy's relationship is the key to the whole story, Tamblyn says.
'You have to believe in Peter Pan first of all when he flies in the window,' he says. 'Wendy is all of us in the audience, getting to meet this wonderful character. They start cautiously, then the friendship grows, and by the end of the scene they're flying out the window together.'
Tamblyn says that bond sets the tone for later:
'When they say goodbye, you have to care. And when Tinkerbell dies, you have to believe. If you get emotionally involved, the story takes you on a wonderful journey. It's just amazing to watch 800 adults and children clapping to save Tinkerbell.'
Chappell says one of the best parts is being backstage after the performance when children come back for fairy dust to help them fly.
'They never say, 'You're not a boy.' They just believe,' she says.
Of course, the juiciest role in the production is that of the villainous Hook, who swaggers, preens and rants, while keeping a nervous eye open for the crocodile that made off with his hand.
Horenstein says that celebrating the joy of evil is the best thing about being Captain Hook. 'You have to enjoy your work,' he says with a wicked chuckle.
In a twist of fate, Horenstein's boss in the outside world is Jim Caputo, who plays Smee, his pirate sidekick.
'He's my boss at Kornblatt's Deli Ñ but in Neverland I'm his boss,' Horenstein says as he leers piratically, flourishing his famous hook.