Think of a wonderful thing: Kenai Performers hit high note with 'Peter Pan'

Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2011

When you go to see Kenai Performer's "Peter Pan," don't expect to see Disney-type characters running and flying around the stage fighting pirates. But do expect to see children and adults in hand-made costumes singing, flying, and dancing around the stage. This "Peter Pan" is not a play, but a full production musical.

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Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Peter Pan, played by Annaleah Ernst, flies above Wendy (Selia Butler), Michael (Nicholas Roberts) and John (Sullivan Jackson) during a rehearsal earlier this week.

"Peter Pan" is most known for its characters flying, and yes, actors and actresses will be flying around the Kenai Auditorium, but it comes at a price. Kenai Performers has contracted with a professional company, ZFX from California, to bring up the rigging and teach the cast how to fly. According to Chris Cook, the production manager, the cost for just that is $9,000. Budget for this production is between $50,000 and $55,000 and includes about $10,000 in royalty payments to Piers Chater Robinson for this version of Peter Pan.

The cast spent three full days training in the use of the flying rigging. The rigging uses wires and harnesses, and, according to Phil Morin, the director, "stout" volunteers to do the hoisting of Peter Pan and the other characters.

Morin said the target audience is little kids.

"There are some scary parts, but the pirates look buffoonish," he said. He added that the sets are extensive and designed to enhance the "magical illusion."

Choreographer Chris Morin said the choreography has been fun because she gets to use the set as part of the dance moves, including jumping on the beds, jumping off rocks, and dancing on the ship.

"I work with the Lost Boys, Pirates and Indians," Morin said. "They are 10 and up. They have lots of good energy and do a lot of funny things on stage. The challenge is the sheer numbers."

She said the other challenge was that some know how to dance and some do not. Casting was in September, and she has been working with them since October with the goal of making them all look like they really are dancers.

There are 128 members in the cast, including 70 children. Peter Pan is played by Annaleah Ernst, a 15-year-old Nikiski High School sophomore who was also in last year's "Grease." Wendy is played by Selia Butler, a 16-year-old Connections student who has been involved with Kenai Performers since she was 7.

Nearly all of the cast members arrive early to rehearsals. Director Morin said his philosophy is "Early is on time, on time is late, and late is fired." He said he has to have strict, absolute discipline because of the flying and special effects. "There's no frivolous running and carrying on."

On one particular Saturday, rehearsal was to start at 11 a.m., but by 10:30, the auditorium was filled with children and some adults. By 11 a.m., all were standing and singing vocal exercises in precise harmony.

The show will run three weekends: Feb. 18, 19, 20; then 24, 25, 26; and finally March 4, 5, 6 and the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High school. Time is 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $15 for students and seniors and $20 for everyone else, at the door or in advance from Charlotte's and Curtain Call in Kenai, River City Books in Soldotna, and Two Sisters and Homer Book Store in Homer.

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