Mabou Mines’ Peter and Wendy returns to the New Victory Theatre in New York this weekend and will have 14 performances, May 6-May 22. 
How It’s New York:  It’s a Show by the great New York Experimental Theatre Company Mabou Mines
How It’s Irish:  It’s Scottish in theme and tenor, with music by the incomparable fiddler Johnny Cunningham.  Irish singer Susan McKeown originally sang the roles.  This time around it’s Scottish singer Siobhan Miller, but there are Irish musicians on board, including Tola Custy on fiddle.

 Bookwriter Liza Lorwin and actress Karen Kandel are on the podcast this week.  The show was originally created by Lorwin, director Lee Breuer, lighting designer Julie Archer and the Cunningham.

Nobody who loves theatre should miss it.  It  is a sparkling, unforgettable and exhilarating work or theatre.  With a score by  Cunningham (originally of Silly Wizard), and  Kandel, who won an Obie award for the role, doing all the voices as the Narrator, and amazing Bunraku-style puppetry by a crack team, it’s a treat for the eyes. 

But it’s also a stab at the heart.  More than any other adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s play and novel Peter Pan, Peter and Wendy captures the yearning and melancholy of his story about growing up– without ever losing the delight and sense of fun.

Barrie’s stories are full of irony and wit aimed at adults, while never losing the wonder of seeing the world as a child.  Case in point– Here is Barrie’s description of Mrs. Darling:

…her sweet mocking mouth had one kiss on it that Wendy could never get, though there it was, perfectly conspicuous in the right-hand corner. The way Mr. Darling won her was this: the many gentlemen who had been boys when she was a girl discovered simultaneously that they loved her, and they all ran to her house to propose to her except Mr. Darling, who took a cab and nipped in first, and so he got her. He got all of her, except the innermost box and the kiss. He never knew about the box, and in time he gave up trying for the kiss. Wendy thought Napoleon could have got it, but I can picture him trying, and then going off in a passion, slamming the door.

When I first read this at age 5 (or it was read to me) I did not understand why the cab was funny.  But adults will, and find it dear.  And the kiss matters- and it’s in this production, though not in Disney, or the stage versions that have young women playing Peter.  Here Peter is played by a Bunraku puppet, and he’s pure magic.  Irish vocalist Susan McKeown originated the songs, but she’s too busy with her Singing in the Dark project (looks like a film is in the works!) to return.  Phil Cunningham recommended Scottish vocalist Siobhan Miller for the role– and she will bring a touch of the Scots to it, as well as her gorgeous pipes.

I picked up the score when I was in Dublin in 1999, but didn’t see the show until 2022, when it was again in NY.  I went with many of the Rovers, an online group dedicated to Silly Wizard.  Johnny played the fiddle, and was at the after party at O’Lunney’s.  At the time I was living in Alabama, and he only knew me from online discussions (he was helping me through a bad breakup.  I’m not kidding. He was that nice.  “The Wolves of Neverland” was on my “Music to be Miserable” mixtape.  Remember mixtapes?  the days before ipod playlists)  When another Amy, another Rover,said, “this is Gwen from Alabama,” he said “you must be the most beautiful woman in Alabama!”  (Amy then added:  “she has all her teeth!”).

Directed by Lee Breuer, Peter and Wendy features set, puppet and lighting design by Julie Archer, with associate light design by Steven L. Shelley, and fight direction by B.H. Barry. Lindsay Abromaitis-Smith, Sam Hack, Jenny Subjack Piezas, Sarah Provost, Jessica Chandlee Smith, Jessica Scott and Amanda Villalobos complete the puppetry team, while live music will be performed by Aidan Brennan, Tola Custy, Stepha Geremia, Alan Kelly, Laoise Kelly, Siobhan Miller and Jay Peck. Costumes are by Sally Thomas, and sound is designed by Edward Cosla.

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