SMHS’ ‘Peter Pan’ Production Ready to Fly

Photo by Zane Hill / OUTLOOK
Standing in front of the pirate ship on set, San Marino High School students Peyton Talt, Rae Bear, Talia Green, Logan Wing and Andy Nguyen are gearing up for the drama program’s presentation of “Peter Pan,” which starts next week.

San Marino High School senior Talia Green said she vividly remembers attending one of the school’s student performances of “Peter Pan” 10 years ago.
“I thought it was really fun,” she said of that show. “Parts of it were scary, but it was cool and I really liked it.”
Now it’s Green’s turn to help bring the magic of Neverland to a San Marino audience, when she takes the stage next week at SMHS as the musical’s title hero. It won’t be her first portrayal of a member of the opposite gender, as she had the role of Racetrack Higgins in last year’s production of “Newsies” (“I find myself playing little boys a lot,” the diminutive Green quipped), but Peter Pan the character does bring a new challenge, she admitted.
“This year I’m playing a more childish boy, so it’s harder to get into character,” Green explained. “I have to be really fidgety. I have to have a really short attention span. I really just have to be moving all the time. Little boys express themselves more through their body language than what they say, so I really have to act through my motions.”
Originating from J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play “Peter and Wendy,” the story of Peter Pan was popularized by the 1953 Disney animated film and also an enduring 1954 Broadway musical, on which this production is based. The tale’s presence among Disney’s repertoire gives “Peter Pan” a deeper connection than usual to many of the SMHS performers, to hear them tell it.
“That’s the one I grew up with,” said junior Peyton Talt, who plays one of the unnamed twins who are among the Lost Boys of Neverland. “I remember going to Disneyland as a kid and the Peter Pan ride being my favorite, and I just really like the style of the animation.”
To that end, Talt said the song “I Won’t Grow Up” is probably her favorite part of the performance, thanks largely to its familiarity among her peers.
“Everyone just gets more into it because they know it,” she said.
Rae Bear, a junior, said she is enjoying her role as Wendy Darling, her first musical lead, because of how many girls like herself looked up to the character.
“It’s an iconic character,” Bear said. “She’s very stubborn but very sweet at the same time.
“It’s incredibly rewarding,” she continued. “I’ve done musicals since 6th grade, so I’ve always looked forward to taking on a lead in a musical and be more of a leader for the cast.”
Conversely, senior Logan Wing — who plays Capt. Hook — said he prefers Steven Spielberg’s 1991 film “Hook,” in which Robin Williams played an adult Peter Pan returning to Neverland to confront Hook once and for all.
“I’ve just loved it ever since,” Wing explained. “Dustin Hoffman’s Hook, I just took a lot of inspiration from it. He’s more seasoned. He’s more calculated and less of a cartoon character than in the Disney movie. You definitely feel the presence that he has.”
Getting into character as Capt. Hook is more complex than simply acting villainous, Wing added.
“You would think on the surface that he’s just another villain, that he’s just an angry dude who likes to make fun of people and inflict pain,” he said. “As you get into it, his bravado is a show to intimidate the people under him. He makes himself bigger than he is, while at the same time doing exactly what he sets out to do and terrify people. It’s a cool double-edged sword.”
Green and Wing both agreed that their favorite scene will be the song “Mysterious Lady,” in which Peter Pan dresses up as, well, a mysterious lady and lures Hook on a chase through a dark forest.
“In that song, Peter is fooling Hook into thinking that he is a lady,” Green said. “Hook is chasing Peter and thinks Peter is a beautiful lady. There are actors playing trees. It’s just a lot of fun.”
“It allows Hook’s more flamboyant side,” Wing added. “He’s a showman, so it allows him to put away the big-mean-boss persona.”
Joining Hook’s brigade is senior Austin Nguyen, who plays one of the many pirates in the production and relished the challenge of relating to how a pirate behaves.
“At first I was kind of awkward,” he said. “Compared to ‘Newsies,’ where we were acting our age, emulating a pirate was more difficult because you only really know what you’ve seen on screen. You have to act drunk, which I’ve never been before. It’s fun to have a challenge like that.”
The energy of the performance has carried through winter holiday breaks, the cast members said, and they expect it to last through all of the performances.
“It’s kind of fun,” Talt said, explaining what working with a twin character was like. “My partner really nailed all the dances and will help me out with that, and I nailed all of the songs, so we both really play off each other a lot. I felt like everyone was excited when they announced ‘Peter Pan,’ but with each rehearsal, it’s getting more fun. We’re not getting tired of the show.”
“The cohesion has come together in a really quick process,” Nguyen added. “It makes the show refreshing to carry on. It’s still going to feel very new.”

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