Soaring (And A Sore Throat) with Peter Pan
Posted 03/06/2018 09:25AM

by Meme Greene / Lion Staff


This Spring, Lovett put on a truly magical musical: Peter Pan. Helmed by Natalie Pitchford, director of Lovett’s Conservatory of Music and Musical Theatre Coordinator, the show was something we have never seen before.

Mrs. Pitchford had been planning this show since April of 2017 when she read the novel Peter Pan and began thinking about how to capture the “whimsical” essence of the story. “A lot of times performances do not capture the whimsiness that the book does,” said Mrs. Pitchford. “I wanted Neverland to seem overwhelmingly magical.”

The rehearsal process began back in December, and all lead roles had to be off-book by the time Winter break ended. According to Mrs. Pitchford, there are two difficulties in the rehearsal process: getting into the groove and transitioning onto the stage.

The cast of the show is what makes any show come to life. Mrs. Pitchford said that the best thing about this cast in particular is how excited they were to be on the stage. “I feel like every person onstage earned being there. It raises the bar and the quality of the performance because they’re so invested,” said Mrs. Pitchford.

As the star of the show, Hope Valls, who played the role of Peter Pan, had the hardest job. She was tasked with playing a male role as a female. She said it was hard to do, especially since she considers herself girly. “It was a challenge that I am not very manly, so that was a concern,” said Hope, “But I just had to get over it. The songs were all in my vocal range, so that helps.” She said that the music was her favorite part of the show because “the songs are all so fun.”

Another lead character of the show was Wendy Darling, played by Madison Thompson. Madison has been acting since she was five, and since then, she has appeared in many TV shows and movies, including Shots Fired, Major Crimes, and most recently, Kevin Probably Saves The World.

“On stage acting differs from on screen acting,” according to Madison. “They are polar opposites.” She began her acting career on stage then transitioned into television, and through this process, her largest struggle was transitioning from Broadway style to on screen style. “The two are very different styles with completely different content,” said Madison.

As Wendy, Madison had a very large job in the show. Mrs. Pitchford believes that one of the main motifs throughout the show was Wendy’s “arc,” transitioning from a little girl to a woman.

Certainly the cutest actor in the show was lower schooler Rodes Cole. Rodes is in fourth grade, and he played the role of Michael Darling, the youngest of the Darling family. The show was filled with moments where Rodes was the star. As the only Lower Schooler in the show, he gained quite a bit of popularity.

Fritz Van Winkle, who played his older brother John, took Rodes under his wing, looking out for him in all of the rehearsals and messing around with him when they had free time. This was Fritz’s first lead role in a Lovett show, but he was excited for the opportunity. “I have never really done a big production so I didn’t know what to think,” said Fritz. “The thing I was most excited for was flying.”

Mrs. Pitchford’s magical ideas for the show are brought to life mostly due to the flying. All of the lead characters (Wendy, Michael, John, Peter, and Liza) got to fly, thanks to ZFX flying company. Once ZFX arrived on campus and began working with the cast, the show truly came to life.

On both Friday and Saturday nights, the show was completely sold out.

Unfortunately, Hope, who played the lead role of Peter, got sick the week of the show. To cope with her symptoms, Mrs. Pitchford helped her in every way she could.

“The minute we knew she was getting sick, we had her stop singing and talking,” said Mrs. Pitchford. “Vocal health is kind of like a bank - there's only so much in your vocal bank account - and when it's compromised, you really have to budget your usage of singing and talking. Ms. Little and I took turns singing for her and continued to do that throughout tech week.”

Mrs. Pitchford also said that although it caused some adjustments to be made, it is how the real world of performing works. “This doesn't sound ideal, but it's actually a pretty realistic reflection of the professional world. Last minute adjustments are hard to do, but very common, and our cast handled it incredibly well!”

This strategy worked out well. Ms. Little sang for Hope during the in-school performance, but for the night time performances, Hope sang almost all of her songs, with the help of Madison Thompson who took over some of her lines when they had songs together.

There were also a few complications with the flying during the show, as the cables got tangled before one of the last flying scenes. “It was a sad moment for me, but thank goodness everyone was safe,” said Mrs. Pitchford. “The entire show always takes on a whole new life on opening night, and throughout the run. It is so delightful to watch the actors expand on stage and stretch their wings!”

In spite of the challenges, the show was filled with beauty and magic. “I'm a sucker for moments of beauty,” said Mrs. Pitchford. “I was especially in love with the flight sequence when the Nursery set disappeared, and Liza's Ballet. I was also just so proud of my Lost Boys, Pirates, and Warriors, that I loved all of their moments as well!”

Overall, Peter Pan is definitely the most magical and fun show that Lovett has put on, and it is all thanks to the Lovett fine arts department, the cast, and most of all, our new musical theater director Mrs. Pitchford.

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