A musical that never grows old

Wakefield theatre students take to the skies in their production of Peter Pan.

November 16, 2015

Peter Pan floats across the stage during the Musical.
Staff Photo by Cameron Osiecki
Peter Pan floats across the stage during the Musical.

Theatre allows one’s imagination to fly and discover all the possibilities the world has to offer.  It brings make-believe characters to life and allows each individual to interpret the performance in their own way.  Wakefield High School’s theatre took the idea of “letting one’s imagination fly” quite literally in their musical, Peter Pan.  The students brought the classic story to life as they flew through the air, battled with swords, and sang songs that both entertained and moved the audience.

Theatre director Paul Orsett decided to have his students perform Peter Pan as a musical, rather than as a play.  While Orsett enjoyed other versions of this story, he felt the musical version was a unique way to evoke emotion in the audience while keeping them captivated.

“It’s a new treatment of the story that hasn’t been done in North America a lot,” said Orsett.  “I wanted to introduce them to a new version of the same story.  In my opinion, [the musical version of Peter Pan] has a lot better music.  It’s more accessible than the Broadway version, and while the Broadway version has a couple of fun songs, every one of these songs is fun to do and has an emotional impact that the Broadway doesn’t have.”

Senior Kyle Yeomans, who played the role of Peter, was pleased with the soundtrack chosen for the musical this year.

Peter Pan is probably one of my favorite shows that I’ve done when it comes to scripts, music; all of it.  It’s very contemporary in comparison to things we’ve done.  I adore this soundtrack; it’s something I’d enjoy even if I wasn’t in [Peter Pan].

While elements such as music and props add a great deal to Peter Pan, Orsett also wanted his students to be the best they could be on stage.  He wanted them to put on a good show, while becoming more skilled at their craft.

“In Peter Pan, there’s not a lot of character development in the writing of the play because the characters are so well-known,” said Orsett.  “However, each actor that takes on the role of any of these characters puts part of themselves into the character.  That in itself is a challenge because a lot of times we like to emulate people, but you have to get to a point when you’re an artist to make your own choices.  You might be influenced by certain things, but you don’t want to take something directly from them.  You do something else with it and make it your own.”

Yeomans felt a strong connection with Peter Pan as he portrayed him in the musical.  

“I feel Peter encompasses the kind of person I am,” said Yeomans.  “Not just on stage, but in real life.  It’s very similar to how I act.  To be the lead role in a show my senior year was definitely the dream.”

The students spent a great amount of time in preparation for their performances of Peter Pan.  From practice almost everyday to eleven hour rehearsals, the crew gave the musical all their time and effort.

“I ate, breathed, and slept Peter Pan for the past two months,” said senior Kaleb Gibbs, who played the role of Slightly in the musical.  “It’s been a lot of hard work.”

Although Gibbs has done shows every year since joining theatre, he found Peter Pan to be a one of a kind production compared to previous years.

“This was taking a really original interpretation of the story,” said Gibbs.  “There’s nothing quite like having people fly through the air, doing crazy choreography while on these apparatuses that people off stage are holding up.  It’s a really big production so it’s cool to see it come together.”

Putting together such a large production was not an easy process.  Cast members had to receive various forms of training, including learning to use the flying equipment, taking sword fighting classes from a private instructor, and controlling the laser light that played the role of Tinkerbell.  

Junior Brielle Cashdan, one of the theatre’s stage managers, enjoyed the technical aspect of Peter Pan  and watching the actors grow as performers.

“From the tech side I get to watch the performance,” said Cashdan.  “I got to see from the beginning where no one knew their lines or what to do, to putting on this amazing show.  Seeing the before and after is the best part.”

“What stands out to me is the complication of the set,” said senior Cody Keech, who played Captain Hook.  “We got a lot of huge set pieces and we move them all around, so it’s more difficult than it usually is.”

Keech even had to learn sword fighting left-handed even though he is right-handed because the script called for Captain Hook to have his hook on the right hand.

Students in theatre have to dedicate countless hours rehearsing and perfecting their characters, while still finding a balance between school and theatre.

Junior Nhan Tran, who played John in Peter Pan, understands the importance of being committed to school despite all the time he spends working on shows.

“Theatre takes up ample amounts of time,” said Tran.  “You have to learn how to manage your life so you don’t fall behind in class.  I spent over 60 hours preparing for Peter Pan and the rest scrambling to get school work done.  When they’re not on stage, the actors are busy with homework.  It’s non-stop working from when school starts to 8:30pm at latest.”

From beginning to end, the production has had its difficulties, but the rewards are worth it.  Sophomore Cameron Ransome, who played the role of Mrs. Darling, reflected on the result.

“I think that we came together really fast, which is hard,” said Ransome.  “[Peter Pan] became a show and a family really quickly.”

Theatre both creates lasting friendships and allows students to develop life skills that they’ll carry beyond high school.  Sophomore Lauren Shifflett, who played the role of the dog, Nana, and the Crocodile, believes that she’s taken away many valuable life lessons by being a member of Wakefield’s theatre program.

“You have an experience with people that you wouldn’t have normally,” said Shifflett.  “[Performing in theatre] brings you really to a lot of people.  You learn how to talk to people, how to work with others, and how to get over being nervous.”

Yeomans agreed that one of his favorite parts about being in theatre are the relationships he’s built since his first show freshman year.

“I’ve met so many great people and friends that I feel I’ll stay in contact with because of our mutual love for theatre.”

Junior Elese Corson, who played the role of Wendy in Peter Pan, spoke of how theatre has impacted her life.  She feels theatre gave her the tools to perform to the best of her ability.

“Everytime I do a performance I feel like I get better,” said Corson.  “[The most rewarding part of theatre is] people applauding you, people congratulating you, and just knowing that your friends are there.”

Junior Emma Robinson, who played Curly, added to Corson’s thoughts on the rewards of theatre.  

The most rewarding part of being in theatre is the sense of accomplishment when you know you’ve given a good run,” said Robinson, “as well as the bond you feel with the cast.”

For Yeomans, what makes all of the hard work worth it in the end is how the crowd reacts to the show.

“The reaction and smiles that you get from the crowd, everybody who sees the shows, and everybody enjoying it; that’s really what I do theatre for,” said Yeomans.  “It’s to put smiles on other people’s faces.  If you’re going to a show and you’ve had a bad day, maybe it can brighten you up.  That’s the hope I always had for theatre.”

Junior Connor Ritter, who also played the role of Curly, believes that the ending of Peter Pan had a greater emotional impact on the audience than any show he’s ever performed.  The sentiment of the story truly resonated on a higher level as a result of the actors hard work and dedication.  

“The ending I think is the most beautiful ending we’ve ever had here,” said Ritter.  “We’ve had several people cry at the end.  It reminds people of their childhood and how it had to come to an end, and that’s just a sad thing.”   

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