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THEATRE REVIEW : Standard 'Peter Pan' May Be Growing Old : Cabrillo Music group has more space to fill, but this production lacks the appeal of the troupe's last outing.

June 22, 1995|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

After hibernating for a year or so, the Cabrillo Music Theatre moved in 1994 from Port Hueneme's Dorill Wright Center to the new Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. Gaining several times the seating capacity, Cabrillo was faced with finding ways to fill the much-expanded space. After a successful run of the perennial "The Music Man," the troupe is back this year with "Peter Pan."

This musical version of James M. Barrie's venerable play features songs by two teams: Carolyn Leigh and Mark (Moose) Charlap and Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Jule Styne. It opened on Broadway in 1954, starring Mary Martin and Cyril Richard, and has been the standard version of "Peter Pan" ever since.

While this "Pan" is just as ambitious as last year's Cabrillo show, the property itself is no "Music Man." The songs aren't as memorable and the story is neither as sophisticated nor as amusing. It's generally seen as a play for children, which is just about right--except children crave (and deserve) more hummable melodies.

The energetic group under the leadership of director Gary Gordon does what it can, and the flying effects are pretty spectacular even if you can see the wire. But '90s kids may well lose patience during the show's 150 minutes as they wait for the pirates' next appearance.

Gordon tries to goose things with audience participation, including a segment in which kids are invited (or pushed by their parents) onstage to join in a reprise of "I've Got to Crow." At Saturday night's performance, the children seemed more terrified than celebratory. And that big "Westlake Village Inn" sign projected on the curtain before the show and during intermission is pure tackiness.

Following tradition, Peter is played by a woman. Some fans of the musical might remember star Amy Griffin from a production in Santa Barbara. Griffin plays Peter the way women do boys' voices in radio and TV commercials: like street toughs (Bart Simpson is an example everybody can relate to). It's a strange portrayal, especially when the play is set in Victorian London, but at least the cast isn't forced to deal with English accents and the audience doesn't have to try to decipher them.

Captain Hook is played with great gusto by Doug Maines. The rest of the cast is split among professional and amateur actors, though the production could certainly pass as "professional." Notable among the large ensemble are Jeannine Marquie, Ryan Webb and Jacob Chase as, respectively, Wendy, John and Michael; Anne Given as Mrs. Darling; Thomas Lenk as the family dog, Nana; Michelle Berti as Tiger Lily, and virtually all of Hook's crew of ostensibly bloodthirsty pirates.

Again, as per tradition, the actor (Maines) who plays Hook also plays the children's father, though this is not a dream sequence like "The Wizard of Oz," where fantasy characters are shown to have real-life prototypes. Someday, somebody will produce a really radical "Peter Pan," with Peter portrayed by a young man, and Hook and Mr. Darling by different actors.

Diann Alexander's musical direction and Lee Martino's choreography are exemplary, as are the costumes, credited to Janet Webb. The stage sets, of the Darlings' bedroom, Hook's ship and the Lost Boys' encampment, are very impressive.

Details

* WHAT: "Peter Pan."

* WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (closes Sunday).

* WHERE: Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks.

* HOW MUCH: $15, $20, $25.

* CALL: 449-2787.

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