Douglas Sills and Nancy Anderson in Peter Pan
(© Kevin Sprague)
Douglas Sills and Nancy Anderson in Peter Pan
(© Kevin Sprague)
Let it be known that New Jersey theatergoers believe in fairies. At least that seemed to be the case at the opening night performance of Mark S. Hoebee's lively and enjoyable production of the beloved 1954 musical Peter Pan at the Paper Mill Playhouse. When Nancy Anderson, who has convincingly been transformed into the title character, asked the audience whether it believed in fairies, the response was strong enough to shake the roof of the cavernous theater.

The Paper Mill production uses the same sets, costumes and revised script of the 1998 Broadway revival, although the rarely-heard comic duet "Mysterious Lady" has been reinstated here. However, in this production, Hoebee emphasizes the show's broad physical humor -- perhaps a bit too much, particularly when Douglas Sills' pants rip on multiple occasions during "Hook's Waltz." A catwalk has also been added for extra contact with the audience, and the Lost Boys, Pirates and Indians occasionally roam the aisles.

Choreographer Patti Colombo provides an impressive mix of wildly athletic movement, especially in her highly physical, drum-pounding extended version of "Ugg-A-Wugg," her tangos and waltzes for the buffoonish pirates, and graceful gymnastics for the high-flying title character.

Anderson, who has become best known for her sex-kittenish roles, is totally believable as the easygoing, boastful, and rather innocent tomboy. She also nails the role vocally and looks absolutely jubilant while gliding above the stage. Meanwhile, Sills, who has previously scored in hammy roles such as Carl-Magnus in A Little Night Music and Orin Scrivello in Little Shop of Horrors, is rather inexplicably restrained as Captain Hook and Mr. Darling (Still, he is most at ease while indulging in what appear to be numerous ad-libbed lines).

In supporting roles, the golden-haired Hayley Podschun makes for a cute and effusive Wendy -- and also portrays the older, wiser Wendy in the musical's final scene; Jessica Lee Goldyn is a fierce and unusually sexy Tiger Lily, and former Paper Mill leading lady Glory Crampton manages to stand out even in her short cameo as Mrs. Darling.