A Newer Neverland – Ursan unveils a different take on the Peter Pan fable (Edmonton Journal)

By Devin Pacholik, For The Leader-Post March 30, 2015

A newer Neverland

Captain Hook ( Kieran Kennedy) and Peter Pan (Lorenzo Salazar) will battle in the Do It With Class production of Peter Pan, which runs March 31 and April 1/15 at the Conexus Arts Centre.

Photograph by: Darrol Hofmeister , Photo by Sharpshooter Photography

Unpaid bills, laundry that needs folding and the quest for more coffee: these are the adventures of adulthood. But what if we didn’t have to grow up? What if we could fly away to Neverland?

Do It With Class Young People’s Theatre (DIWC) invites audiences to soar with Peter Pan on March 31 and April 1 at Conexus Arts Centre. The musical is DIWC’s season finale and Robert Ursan, the artistic director of the organization, said it’s an immense, fantastical production.

Ursan wrote the music and script, adapted from J. M. Barrie’s classic tale about a magical boy, his fairy friend Tinkerbell and their expedition with the Darling children through Neverland.

Starting last summer, Ursan scored nearly 20 original songs for the musical. He said he is both excited and terrified to showcase his work.

“The style is kind of typical oldfashioned Broadway, but it has my thumbprints,” explained Ursan.

There are 50 actors ages 10 to 18 involved with Peter Pan from DIWC’s junior and senior companies, including Kieran Kennedy (Captain Hook), Lorenzo Salazar (Peter Pan) and Taylor Cameron (Wendy).

“Sometimes you forget how young these kids are,” said Ursan. “They are an incredible group of people. I’m proud of the work they’re doing.”

When asked why he wrote a new script for Peter Pan, Ursan said he wanted to remove the controversial characters and scenes from earlier versions. Notably, he took out the infamous depictions of First Nations people in Tiger Lily’s tribe. Ursan called those depictions insensitive.

“My solution was to choose warriors that would have been closer to J. M. Barrie in the first place,” he explained.

The director borrowed warrior names from the ancient tribe of the Scottish Picts, including their queen Boudicca.

“Boudicca was the only leader of the tribes of Britain who was able to withstand the Roman invasion. She was an incredible leader,” said Ursan.

By making the warriors women, Ursan said he hoped to empower the cast without sacrificing any important plot points.

“There is still the notion that the chieftain’s daughter is kidnapped by Hook and the pirates. All of the usual Peter Pan stuff is there, but every so often it’s filtered through my sense of humour.”

From the time Ursan and DIWC’s Andorlie Hillstrom decided to stage Peter Pan, they wanted it to have a bold look. Choreography by Monica Ventura includes a mermaid ballet and plenty of sword fighting, with elaborate and colourful costumes by Donna Rumple.

“She’s done some absolutely beautiful things,” said Ursan. “I’m absolutely sure children are going to want to take photos with Nana, the nursemaid dog.”

He also credited the actors’ parents for building an enormous set, which transforms into a pirate ship and other locations.

There is also an imaginative portrayal of Tinkbell, although Ursan didn’t want to spoil the surprise.

“It’s going to be a really great family show.”

Tickets for Peter Pan are available at the Conexus Box Office by calling 306-525-9999 or online at conexusartscentre.ca