by Ann Needle
As stage shows go, it has a relatively light story line and the music isn’t complex. But Nashoba Regional High School’s production of Peter Pan, opening March 13, could be its most storied production in years, thanks to something the audience will (hopefully) never see.
“The magic of flying is magic,” smiled Director Bill Grady. And, the cast and crew must work very hard to keep it that way. Grady hired stage aviation expert Flying by Foy to rig the wires and apparatuses needed to fly Peter and the Darling family children over to Neverland. The company is training the actors in flying via wire and the stage hands in handling the equipment, Grady explained. Any actors on the fly also needed to present a doctor’s certification that they are healthy enough to take flight.
That’s about all anyone but the actors and crew will know. One of only two companies in the world that deals in safely setting up airborne actors, Flying by Foy handles about 80% of all stage productions — from Broadway to high schools —involving aeronautics, according to Grady. Naturally, it tightly guards the well-crafted illusions it helps create, assuring these stay magical to its audiences.
No photos are allowed to be taken of the stage with the wires visible, or of any actor without clothing to cover flying-related gear. Even the penalties for revealing any of the details behind the flight equipment and training are not easy to come by. Grady noted that everyone involved with the show signed a contract to stay quiet on the information, and that there are contractual “penalties” for breaking that confidence. “They really do want to make it magical,” he remarked.
And yes, there was a hefty price for bringing in Flying by Foley, but “it’s just part of the show,” Grady said.
Beyond the Wire
While the scenes of flight over London are well anticipated, many other factors combine to give the out-of-the box Peter Pan story its mystique.
Adopted from Scottish author J.M. Barrie’s 1904 story, the plot follows the three Darling children as they are whisked to Neverland by Peter Pan, the boy who “won’t grow up.” Before returning home, the Darlings encounter adventures with pirates and the “lost boys,” who are children also brought to Neverland by Peter.
Analysts sometimes point to the story as an allegory for some sort of plague/infection that swept through London, killing many children that were escorted to heaven by an angel (Peter Pan), according to Prop Manager Holly Ventura. (She commented of the Darlings, “You do have to wonder why those kids always have to take medicine.”) Other sources said the story actually arose from Barrie’s imitations of the voice and mannerisms of a younger brother who died as a child, in an attempt to comfort his mother.
Bill Grady assured that the NRHS production will be considerably more upbeat than these tales, a family-friendly show “rated G-G-G+.”
Stow residents also will see a number of the town’s students in leading roles. These include Lindsey Hawkes as Peter Pan (who won a local theater TAMY Award last year for her Les Miserables performance), Hayley Giovinazzo as Liza, Zachary Stepp as Michael Darling, and Sean Bannon as Mr. Darling.
A rehearsal last weekend was a relaxed but no-nonsense affair full of cast and crew trying to make up time lost to snow days. Ventura said that several full run-throughs of the show were planned for this week — usually stressed only for the week before a production — to make up some of that lost time.
NRHS also is working on replacing another loss to be expected at the end of this show season. Peter Pan is the last opportunity to see some of the high school’s power-house actors before they graduate in June. Melissa Lynch, who has choreographed NRHS productions for the past several years, reminisced about some of these students, many in lead roles.
Talking about Lindsey Hawkes as Peter Pan, Lynch observed, “I just love her, nothing phases her. She has no fear — or, at least it seems that way.” Lynch added that Hawkes has not yet blanched over her in-flight role. There also is fellow senior Kelly Ryan of Lancaster (Wendy Darling), who “has been great to work with; she just goes about her business and does the job.”
Of another departing senior, Bolton’s Tyler Plaskon (Smee), Lynch laughed, “Oh, we’ll miss him.” No more needed to be said. Often cast in whatever comedic leads were offered by Nashoba over the past four years, at this rehearsal Plaskon stuck his nose over a cardboard cake before walking onto the stage, and very convincingly cooed, “My, this cake smells delicious!”
It was tough to tell if this will be part of the show.
Peter Pan will be showing at NRHS on Friday, March 13 and Saturday, March 14, at 7:30pm; and on Sunday, March 15 at 2pm. Tickets are $14 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. For more information or to order tickets online, visit www.NashobaDrama.com or www.ticketstage.com/T/NFOD. Tickets also are being sold at Snapdragons Party & Gifts, in the Shaw’s Plaza (cash or check only for these tickets). If available, tickets will be sold at the door, but keep in mind that all of last year’s Les Miserables performances sold out beforehand.