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Rediscovering Peter Pan

Me at 18 with my mouth full in the Hunter College lobby near the student union office.

My mother tells me that I always had a connection with Peter Pan although I must confess I can’t remember anything about him until I watched the Mary Martin version on television in the early sixties. Oh yes, I also remember wanting the Disney soundtrack, the one with the record cover of Peter peering in the window of the Darling nursery.

It was during my sophomore year at Hunter College that I was cast as Peter in the musical version. Although it looked as if a girl named Moira would be cast in the role, I auditioned near the end and won the part, allowing Moira to play Wendy. I was a wiry, 18-year-old who looked more like 15 with little facial hair, wavy dirty blonde hair, and a bounce in my walk. Although not a great singer, I knew how to sell a tune.

This particular production was aimed at a local orphanage so the director, a very nice guy named Bob, decided he would omit the song, “Wendy,” as he didn’t want to have the kids hear the Lost Boys singing over and over, “a mother, a mother, at last we found a mother.” Ironically, he substituted a syrupy song “M-O-T-H-E-R” with a lyric including “M is for the million things she gave me, O is that she’s only getting old…”

Although the rehearsal period seemed to go on forever, I met many of my college friends in that production . I had a huge crush on Linda, the musical director, but we instead became good friends. And I met Michael and Sharron who would be my best buddies for years to come. During the lengthy rehearsal period, we lost several members of our cast including our excellent Captain Hook. The actor who took over was extremely funny and as flamboyant a Hook as I have ever seen. After one performance, my Nana (grandmother) came backstage to congratulate me (“I thought you could sing!”) and commented that the actor playing Hook was having a difficult time letting go of his character as he was still quite flamboyant. When I introduced him to Nana, he made a grand bow and kissed her hand. She loved that!

There was also a dancer in the show, another Sharon (with one r) who was stunningly beautiful as well as graceful. I had a crush on her too. Her take on Tiger Lily was exotic and yet innocent. The only problem was that we never got to see her dance (which she choreographed) until we opened and then, during each performance, it was different. OMG! I just remembered the “Indian” lyric we had to sing just before her dance. “Him know la ippidy towa show ta.” Pretty bad huh? This took the place of “Ugg-A-Wugg” which I was sorry to see go.

Even though this version could not compete with college plays that I would eventually be cast in it was still much appreciated by the kids from the orphanage. And it served as a segue to my life long interest in theatre. And Peter Pan.



9 thoughts on “Rediscovering Peter Pan

  1. I bet you were an adorable Peter Pan ! No photos in costume ???

    Posted by dale | May 1, 2011, 8:57 PM
  2. Oh man, you look just like me, Dad!

    Posted by Drew | May 4, 2011, 9:41 PM
  3. My introduction to Peter Pan was seeing the 1953 Disney movie. We lived in Chicago, in a fairly dingy apartment over a dime store. Across the street was a movie theater, and as a 5 year old, I persuaded my poor mother to take me to see it 4 times. I had all the Little Golden Records and Books of it, too, and best of all, I had a book-length, very faithful and well-illustrated adaptation of the Disney movie script, which I read and re-read endlessly. A couple of years later, we had moved across town, and half the kids in my neighborhood were crowded into our living room to watch Mary Martin soar into our homes and hearts (on our B&W Stromberg-Carlson 8 inch screen). I was a teenager before I read the Barrie novel and playscript. But my love of Peter Pan has persisted all these years, and I’m now well into my seventh decade. I’ve seen the play and the musical dozens of times over the years, and I never tire of them. Peter Pan Forever!

    Posted by Dan | May 12, 2011, 12:54 PM
    • Hi Dan,
      It’s nice to hear from you on this site. It’s funny but I really didn’t remember much about Peter Pan before the 1960 Mary Martin brodcast but my parents told me I loved the character from the time I was three or so.It’s nice to know that my son and his girlfriend also have an affection for the character. I love your account of watching the program on television for he first time. Those were such different days then; when almost everyone in the neighborhood watched the same TV specials (or spectaculators as they were called then)and shared about them the next day. Early television was almost, like radio, an unintentional tool that brought neighbors closer. And the events depicted need not have been diasters.

      Posted by Bruce K. Hanson | May 12, 2011, 7:44 PM
      • Oops..I meant “spectaculars” not “spectaculators.”

        Posted by Bruce K. Hanson | May 12, 2011, 7:45 PM
      • Bruce, how was the flying handled in your production?

        The first time I saw the Barrie play (not the musical, in other words) was at the Shaw Festival in Ontario. It was done in 1987 and repeated the next year. Adults played all the parts. The cast was terrific and the production was magical. I saw four performances over the two seasons. Christopher Newton was a genuinely great Hook, the best I’ve ever seen. Tom McCamus played Peter, superbly. Appropriately enough, last year McCamus played Captain Hook in Stratford’s landmark production. He got splendid notices, but I did not get there to see it, sadly.

        Posted by Dan | May 13, 2011, 12:28 AM
  4. The flying was done with strobe lights. I remember intricate choreography and endless rehearsals on this one aspect of the play. I wouldn’t place this production very high on the list of top Peter Pans but it still provides fond memories.

    Posted by bruce k hanson | May 16, 2011, 8:16 PM

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