Review: 'Peter Pan' soars at Circa '21


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Posted Online: June 24, 2009, 10:01 pm
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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com
If Brittany Church does not become a big musical-theater star, I will eat crow.

The 20-year-old student at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., certainly takes an outstanding star turn -- and justifiably crows -- in the title role of "Peter Pan" at Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse.

Miss Church, whose family is from the Quad-Cities, and who now lives with her parents in Kansas, majors in musical theater at Belmont.

In an indelible, irrepressible role she's long dreamed of playing, the red-haired actress embodies Peter with such gusto, passion and boundless glee, you don't have to be a kid to get enraptured.

I planned to attend with my 9-year-old son, but that night he had a required band practice, so I was flying solo amid a happy Circa crowd of mostly families. Initially, I was a bit wary of sitting through a syrupy version of a Disney classic.

Instead, this was one of the best, most enjoyable musicals I have seen in the Quad-Cities in a long time. Energetic actors, stylish sets and a thoroughly professional production are helmed by director Jim Hesselman.

The 9-year-old's heart inside my 45-year-old body leaped with joy at the first sight of twinkling stars, and just about stayed there for the next two hours and 40 minutes. I had a strong lump in my throat and tear in my eye by the end.

Who wouldn't want to be enveloped in the warm embrace of the Disney formula – where we get to marvel at daring derring-do, followed by the obligatory comforting ending?

In Miss Church's expert hands, this Peter is fun-loving, cocky, impetuous, adventurous and fearless. He doesn't want to grow up and he takes us to the magical place, Neverland, where you never do.

With a clear, ringing voice and commanding British accent, Miss Church is very demonstrative and determined. In "Neverland," her full, beautiful pipes really fill the top notes at the song's climax.

With the darling Darling children (talented local kids Zach Finn, Lauren Van Speybroeck and Tanner Konrardy), we wonder at the thrill of "I'm Flying." A little girl behind me exclaimed, "I wish I could do that." Don't we all!

In the primal, forested Neverland, we're introduced to the tough band of Lost Boys, colorful pirates and equally playful Indians. Led by the evil, fiendishly plotting Captain Hook (Tom Walljasper), the pirates end up being lovably bumbling.

Smee (George Schulz) is the huge, funny assistant to Hook, and both look like they easily could have stepped out of a cartoon. Mr. Walljasper – a longtime Circa favorite – suitably hams it up in his showy, flamboyant role and must be having a ball. (Be sure to check out his performer bio for info on why Peter always is played by a woman.) Mr. Walljasper doubles as the family's father.

The tight harmony of "I Won't Grow Up" and the delightfully rhythmic, insistent dance of "Ugh-A-Wug" are standouts in the second act. The last act extols Hook's virtues as the world's meanest villain, before we learn how all ends up right with the world.

Many years later at the Darling home, where Wendy is a parent to her own little girl, Peter doesn't give much credit to adults, who apparently don't get the chance to fly. Ouch.

In an unforgettable performance, Miss Church soars without even leaving the ground. -- If you go -- What: "Peter Pan."

-- Where: Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse, 1828 3rd Ave., Rock Island.

-- When: 1:30 and 7:45 p.m. Wednesdays, 7:45 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5:45 p.m. Sundays, preceded by buffet; through Aug. 29.

-- Tickets: $46.28 for evening performances, $40.56 for Wednesday matinee. $27.04 for students 18 and younger; $2 discount for 60 and older. Call (309) 786-7733, ext. 2, or visit www.circa21.com.












 



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  Today is Saturday, April 19, the 109th day of 2014. There are 256 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Miss McCorkindale has opened millinery rooms over Gimbel's dry goods store, where she offers a choice lot of millinery goods, which she will manufacture to order.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The little South Park Presbyterian chapel celebrated it first Easter decorated with flowers for an afternoon worship service attended by a large congregation.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Wennerberg Chorus of Augustana College has returned from a 2,000-mile tour in the Eastern states and Illinois.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Col. Charles Lindbergh has stated that he is convinced that Germany's air force is equal to the combined sky fleets of her potential European foes.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Small gas motors may be permitted on boats in the lake to be built in Loud Thunder Forest Preserve. The prospect was discussed yesterday at a meeting of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The annual Dispatch/Rock Island Argus Spelling Bee continues to be a family tradition. Ed Lee, an eighth-grader at John Deere Junior High School, Moline, is the 1989 spelling bee champion from among 49 top spellers in Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties. He advances to the competition in Washington, D.C. Runnerup was Ed's sister, Susan.






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