By Ben Farrington
J. M. Barrie’s classic, much-loved story of adventure and the possibility of escape into a world of magic and never-ending youth is coming to Falls Church. From March 1 – 24, Creative Cauldron is staging a new adaptation with original music by Matt Conner and the exciting large puppets of Margie Jervis.
Barrie, a Scottish novelist and dramatist who lived in London, wrote the play “Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up” and the subsequent book version “Peter and Wendy” in 1904 and 1911 as a result of his friendship with the Llewelyn-Davies family. Since then, it has sold tens of millions of copies and been adapted for pantomime, television, and numerous movie versions, including a silent movie as early as 1924 and the hugely successful Disney animated version in 1953.
The enormous popularity of the story continues today, with familiar characters like the young Darling children, Wendy, John and Michael, the ageless and airborne Peter and Tinkerbell, the Neverland of eternal childhood, the Lost Boys, and the evil pirate Captain Hook still bringing pleasure, thrills and amazement to children today. It has even helped heal sick children for nearly a century, as in 1929 Barrie gave away all the rights to the story to London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.
Conner, who previously wrote successful adaptations of classic works by Edgar Allan Poe in “Nevermore” and Washington Irving in “The Hollow,” says that the choice to use puppets helps capture the magic of the original story, with the intimate space of the puppet theater magnifying the experience.
“Peter Pan is still so magical because it is about dreams coming true, about make-believing in something and having it happen, about the power of closing your eyes, wiggling your shoulders … and finding you really can fly,” Conner said. “You can do anything. … You can do the impossible. There is so much about the human spirit that wants to soar, to be free. The loveliness of this story is that it represents the child in all of us who wants to dream.”
More than 30 children and three professional performers have been rehearsing for weeks to take part in the hour-long production, which features large rod-controlled puppets, Barrie’s extraordinary flight of the imagination, and new music and songs from Conner, including “A Clock in the Croc.”
Conner laughed and said, “I had to write that song. I felt so sorry for the crocodile. He doesn’t get a chance to sing in other adaptations.”
Conner is already working on a new season of shows for Creative Cauldron, soon to be announced, and writing “Silver Belles,” a Christmas show for Signature Theater, as well as launching his own recording studio in Arlington called Nevermore Records.
“Peter Pan and Wendy” will be performed at ArtSpace Falls Church, 410 S. Maple Ave., on Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are on sale now at creativecauldron.org and cost $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and students.