The Mary Martin musical opened to mixed reviews and had a limited run of 152 performances -- less than half the number logged by the Bernstein production. But the reason the show closed was because NBC had bought the broadcast rights; when "Peter Pan" aired in 1955, it drew the largest audience for a single TV show. The broadcast later became a holiday staple, etched in the minds of baby boomers as the definitive production.
And for small theaters, producing the musically accessible Charlap-Styne version simply made more sense. "If you're going to do a musical, that's the one you'll do," Sutherland says. "Bernstein's version isn't really a musical, but it needs the resources of a musical."
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, December 14, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 56 words Type of Material: Correction
"Peter Pan": In today's Arts & Books, an article about Leonard Bernstein's "Peter Pan" misspells the last name of Garth Edwin Sunderland, music editor of the Leonard Bernstein Office, as Sutherland. Also, "Captain Hook's Soliloquy" was written for Lawrence Tibbett -- who appeared in the touring production -- not, as the article states, for Boris Karloff.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, December 21, 2008 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part E Page 2 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 53 words Type of Material: Correction
"Peter Pan": An article last Sunday about Leonard Bernstein's "Peter Pan" misspelled the last name of Garth Edwin Sunderland, music editor of the Leonard Bernstein Office, as Sutherland. Also, "Captain Hook's Soliloquy" was written for Lawrence Tibbett -- who appeared in the touring production -- not, as the article stated, for Boris Karloff.
For years, "Peter Pan" stayed buried in plain sight, listed under "Theater Works," that could be licensed for performance. In 1997, Alexander Frey, then the Rome Philharmonic Orchestra's U.S.-born principal conductor, came across a song, "Dream With Me," which had been cut from the original Broadway production.
"If there was one song cut from the original production, might there be more music existing that may have met a similar fate?" Frey wrote in the liner notes for the 2005 recording he conducted for Koch International Classics after years searching for the answer. (He's also conducting the Santa Barbara production at his request.)
That recording, with Linda Eder singing the role of Wendy and Daniel Narducci as Hook, was based on copies of the score used in the 1988 Midwestern production, which Frey had obtained from the estate. That version included Bernstein's instrumental music -- not Wilder's -- but the score had still been through numerous hands, both on Broadway and thereafter. Frey's recording spurred the estate to investigate the composer's original intent. Sutherland retrieved Bernstein's original materials from the Library of Congress in 2006; he spent nine months eliminating changes made by others during the development of the Broadway production when Bernstein was working in Europe. He also added 23 musical cues in the composer's language to accommodate the action on stage.
"We made a big investment in the new score -- a usable version that theaters can rent and use in a way that's not going to make them cry the way the older materials would have," Sutherland says. "You don't want the orchestra to sit there for 20 minutes earning their wage but not playing."
Gaining the rights
Frey's recording also inspired Santa Barbara Theatre to produce the show, and its production has evolved into the world premiere of the new, definitive score. But Ihde and Pasternack first had to vault a stumbling block: Samuel French, which controlled the U.S. performance rights to both the Barrie play and the Charlap-Styne musical, initially balked at allowing them to produce the play with the Bernstein music, saying it would conflict with the better-known version it managed. The organization later relented after the King's Head Theatre, a London company that staged the show in 2006, put them in touch with Barrie's estate and London's Great Ormond Street Hospital for children, which control the rights in the U.K., and both lent their support.
Ihde says the Bernstein "Peter Pan" hews more closely to Barrie's novel, which focuses more on Wendy, the oldest Darling child, whom Peter spirits away to Never Land. Four of the eight songs were written for her. "Bernstein was able to capture Barrie's idea, which he explained in the novel, that this is Wendy's story about this character she meets, and just as she is about to grow up, she has decisions to make about who she is."
Hook gets a lush, operatic solo in "Hook's Soliloquy" -- cut from the Broadway production because Karloff couldn't sing it. In Santa Barbara, the honor goes to Robert Yacko, a veteran of "Fiddler on the Roof" on Broadway and regional productions of Stephen Sondheim. He appears with Sarah Bierstock, who studied with Marni Nixon and plays Wendy, and Corina Boettger, 18, who will fly across the stage as Peter.
A few weeks ago, the company met its $400,000 fundraising goal with the help of local cultural philanthropists such as developer and banker Michael Towbes, who anticipate that annual holiday productions will be a boon to the city's economic health.
For Santa Barbara Theatre's producing director, the appeal is much more personal. Ihde says that seeing the show on Broadway was a life-altering experience.
"I was 5, and I knew right then that I wanted to do theater and film, no question," he says. "My mother thought I wanted to be Peter Pan. 'No, it's the set, it's the lighting, it's the flying, it's the whole thing.' I find the play more compelling than the musical. Bernstein's music, I've always been in love with his stuff. And this was Bernstein at the peak of his form."
Where: Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St., Santa Barbara
When: Opens Friday. Go to www.SBTheatre.org for schedule. Ends Dec. 28.
Price: $45 to $70
Contact: (805) 963-0761