The Savannah Children's Theatre production of Peter Pan will take off June 12 -- literally. "We are flying," says director Kelie Miley. "Shannon Kuanfung is Peter Pan and is everything Peter Pan should be. This is the Mary Martin version, which has been reprised,. It's one of my favorite shows of all time."
The thought of flying doesn’t worry Kuanfung at all. “I’m really excited,” she says. “I think it will be fun as long as I don’t get tangled in my own cord.”
The cast includes more than 70 adults and children. “We have adults playing Captain Hook, Peter Pan, some of the pirates and Mrs. Darling,” Miley says. “The Lost Boys are little kids and the Indians are teenaged and up.”
It’s a busy time of year to be staging a major production. “We auditioned in early April,” Miley says. “They have stuck with it through the end of school and graduations. Some are graduating on opening night and will come right after the graduation ceremony.”
Adults as well as children will be enchanted by the tale of a boy who just flat refuses to grow up. “You just can’t go wrong with pirates, Indians and boys playing,” Miley says. “The whole flying thing is a lot of fun. There’s nothing dark and sinister -- even Captain Hook is fun.”
Veteran performer Les Taylor plays Captain Hook. “It’s nothing but fun because I get to be so bad,” he says. “It’s a child’s concept of being a bad guy that makes it so much fun. The way Kelie directs it is all through the eyes of children.”
To prepare for the role, Taylor visited Project Gutenberg, a website with books and other written works that are in the public domain, and downloaded playwright J.M. Barrie’s original script.
“It’s a hoot,” Taylor says. “It’s really funny. Just about all dialogue in the show is taken directly from Barrie’s writings. For this day and age, it’s still as fresh as it can be.”
Some might argue that Captain Hook has the coolest costume. “They built the costumes from scratch,” Taylor says. “I tried on the vest and jacket last night. They’re just beautiful.”
And, yes, Captain Hook will be armed with a sword and, of course, a hook. “I’m going to have to fight Peter Pan,” Taylor says. “We’ve rigged a pretty nice hook out of, believe it or not, a paint roller. It’s really funny.”
This is the first time Taylor has gotten to play Hook. “I’ve played other bad guys, but they were serious bad guys. Hook’s always talking about killing people, but he’s really not going to do it.”
Kuanfung auditioned for the part of Peter Pan because she liked the role. “I’d heard a lot of buzz about it,” she says. “I’ve seen shows at the Savannah Children’s Theatre, and they just keep getting better and better. This is my first show with them. I performed for three and a half years with Savannah Theatre.”
Kuanfung is having fun. “There are so many children in the production and I’ve never really worked with children in this capacity before,” she says. “They’re all so energetic. Especially being Peter Pan, it’s great to have that to draw from. He’s supposed to be the embodiment of childhood.”
To prepare for the role, Kuanfung videotaped herself to try get rid of girlish mannerisms. “I don’t ever go to rehearsal in girly makeup or my hair done up because I don’t feel I can get into the role,” she says. “I’ve tried to develop boyish mannerisms.”
Like Taylor, Kuanfung has read the original script. “It’s hysterical,” she says. “It says what Tinkerbelle is saying, even though we don’t get to hear her.”
Although Kuanfung had heard the music before, she still hasn’t seen the film with Mary Martin as Peter Pan. She says audiences will have a lot of fun watching the production.
“It makes you feel really good,” Kuanfung says. “It brings back lots of memories. You’re going to remember why you loved being a kid and why you loved growing up. You’ll leave the theater with a sense that you got to fly.”
Miley is especially excited about seeing Peter Pan, Michael, John, Wendy and Liza the maid fly. “This is a different company than we’ve used in the past,” she says. “I’m curious and excited to see how different they are.
“Flying is one of the last things that happens because of the expense,” Miley says. “It’s not supposed to be at all dangerous, but it takes experts to teach them how to do it.”
Savannah Children’s Theatre: Peter Pan - the Musical What: The classic tale of a boy who refused to grow up.When: June 12, 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. and June 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 3 p.m.Where: Savannah Children's Theatre, 2160 E. Victory Dr. Cost: $15-20.Info: 238-9015 or www.savannahchildrenstheatre.org.