On Friday August 11, 2023, Mischief Productions presented “Peter Pan Goes Wrong” at the Ahmanson Theatre and hilarity reigned supreme. Entering the packed house, silliness and hijinks were already underway as cast members roamed the audience creating havoc and evoking non-stop laughter, as they attempted to fix the “faulty wiring.” Loosely based on JM Barrie’s “Peter Pan,” producer/actors, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, along with director Adam Meggido, have left no stone unturned in squeezing as much humor as possible into and out of this two-hour romp.
In the tradition of English Panto, (pantomime) the audience is expected and even encouraged to interact with the performers adding to the fun and making it particularly appropriate for all ages. This audience did not disappoint as they shouted, clapped and laughed uproariously from beginning to end. Needless to say, this was a great way to spend an evening.
The company actors, who include the above-named producers, are experts in their field, many of whom have been with Mischief Productions since its inception in 2008. Because of this they play off each other like a well-oiled machine, which is necessary given the importance of timing in a show that moves this fast and furiously. The precise and funny revolving scenic design by Simon Scullion is loaded with unexpected surprises confounding the actors and delighting the audience as walls collapse, doors do not open, flying rigs fail and all manner of mayhem breaks loose. The lighting design by Matthew Haskins is exactly right throughout, as are the clever costumes by Roberto Surace. The actors can sing, dance and fall down with apparent ease, no matter the outrageousness of their predicament and their predicaments are multitudinous.
Billed as “Cornley Pyrotechnic Drama Society,” each actor plays two roles or more, as they are the actors within the play and also the characters within the play, which adds layer upon layer to the complexity of the brilliant staging. Whether a dog or a crocodile, a sexy Tinkerbell or the rakish Peter Pan, these actors go for maximum absurdity and succeed in getting there every time. For example, Trevor, the hapless stage hand, played by Chris Leask, inexplicably finds himself hanging upside down as his pants begin to slip off. Actor Henry Shields, as “Cornley” company actor Chris Bean, portrays Mr. Darling and Captain Hook, and is constantly reduced to fits of anger until losing it altogether he steps out of and into character and harasses a child in the audience to raucous effect. Wendy/Sandra as played by Charlie Russell is sweet enough until a bumbling yet hunky Peter Pan/Jonathan/Greg Tannahill, shows up and her libido shows up too. Through lightning fast “quick changes’” Nancy Zamit/Annie, morphs from Mrs. Darling to the Maid, eventually becoming an adorable “electrified” Tinkerbell. Henry Lewis/Robert excels as the trapped dog, Peter Pan’s playboy shadow and various other characters. Both Jonathan Sayer/Dennis and Matthew Cavendish/Max as brothers Michael and Baby John are sweetly ridiculous in these and several other roles. Rounding out the cast are Ryan Vincent Anderson, Harry Kershaw and Ellie Morris.
This production features guest star, Bradley Whitford, as the bored confetti throwing Narrator who is not above using his “special trophies” to make a point. Nor is he afraid to show his support for the union strike, which elicited a wild round of enthusiastic applause from this audience. His attempt at the splits was just one more reason to admire his “flexibility” and commitment. He will be replaced by guest actor Daniel Dae Kim in late August.
Staged to within an inch of its life this uproarious “Peter Pan” is the one to see. Now running through September 10th, grab a ticket and go, go, go.
For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit the Ahmanson Theatre website.
To learn more about Mischief Productions, please visit their website.
Written by Tam Warner for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: “Peter Pan Goes Wrong” – (L-R) Henry Lewis, Harry Kershaw, Henry Shields, and Bartley Booz – Photo by Jeremy Daniel