Santa Barbara Theatre’s production of Peter Pan was a fabulous idea. The original play by Barrie, songs by Leonard Bernstein, and at Christmas. How could that not be fun? The actual production itself, though, could only have earned a rave from this reviewer if it had been put on in a high school auditorium. In that context, the overall effect of this sprawling, nearly three-hour show might have been easier to accept.
A review of an amateur production would not quibble about missed cues or complain that the slides didn’t always match the narration. It would not grumble about how none of the characters except the principals were properly miked. And it would not insinuate that perhaps the lost boys, the Indians, and the pirates were responsible for their own costumes.
At a school show, I would accept having to worry that the actors would slip on the plastic Neverland grass, which some of them actually did. Nor would a doting audience made up of parents and grandparents have grinched about those awkward flying exits; how Peter thudded that one time, or how John and Michael must have badly bruised shins. They would also perhaps have more patience with the long set changes and generally awkward pacing of this two-intermission evening. And they would not have insisted that Tinkerbell is not supposed to look like an LED.
In other words, this production did not live up to the audience’s investment in it. And that investment wasn’t just monetary. Even if you purchased tickets at a discount, or benefited from the “scholarship” tickets, you still spent close to three hours in the theater-if you stayed through the whole thing.
Really, most of the principals were just fine, as were the sets. And it was fun to hear Bernstein’s music-when it wasn’t being butchered in the ensemble pieces. Thank goodness for Robert Yacko as Hook. He alone seemed to be having fun, and to have the energy and skill to fill the stage. Yacko could even remind us why we chose live theater over watching another Disney DVD. If only, Atlas-like, Hook could have pulled the rest of the production up to his level. Alas, this was not to be.