‘Peter Pan’ Takes Flight

Springs Community Theater actors soar above the stage
The Darling children, from left, Paula Guerra, Colin Freedman, and Dillon Andrada, watched Peter Pan, played by Jayne Freedman, take flight. Durell Godfrey

   Spring is literally springing through the air for the Springs Community Theater, as its actors soar above the stage during rehearsal at Guild Hall for a new production of the ever-popular 1954 musical version of the J.M. Barrie classic, “Peter Pan.”
    “It was a dream of hers. She always wanted to do it,” Barbara Mattson, the producer, said of her long-time friend, and co-driving force behind the company, Jayne Freedman.
    The two women founded the community theater group several years ago, drawing mainly from Springs residents for its membership, but also including budding actors and theater lovers from the greater East Hampton area and beyond, with some members coming from as far away as Riverhead.
    But, a couple of years ago, the two women, each at about the same time, lost their mothers. As they took a hiatus from theater, each provided the other with mutual emotional support and shared courage.
    “We haven’t done a show in a couple of years,” Ms. Freedman said. The time seemed right for a production of “Peter Pan.”
    What is so exciting about this production, which will play at Guild Hall Friday, April 12, and April 13, 19, and 20 at 8 p.m. and April 14 at 2 p.m., is that Peter, a part traditionally played by a woman, and the children in the show will be flying through the air over the stage.
    If that sounds ambitious for a community theater, it is, but, don’t worry, this is a well thought out, carefully scripted production.
    “We couldn’t have done it at the old Guild Hall,” Ms. Mattson said. The women asked Joe Brondo, the John Drew Theater’s assistant technical director, for advice on how to make their dream come true. His answer? Flying by Foy, the leading provider of flying special effects for theater and concerts.
    “They do huge shows, all over the world. Las Vegas, Cirque du Soleil. But, they do small shows, community theater, too,” Ms. Mattson said.
    The children will fly straight up and down, with no sideways movement, but Ms. Freedman will need to bring her wings of Mercury. She will be going across the stage, as well as up and down.
    Last Thursday was the first time the cast “flew” in rehearsal.
    “Nobody knew what to expect. The kids were hysterical!” Ms. Mattson said.
    But there is more to the show than just flying.
    “Every time we do a dance number, I think to myself, that’s going to be the show-stopper,” said Ms. Freedman, who is co-directing with Diana Horn and sharing choreography duties with Anita Boyer, who plays Tiger Lilly.
    The company didn’t need to go far to find its Captain Hook — the always funny Josh Gladstone, whose day job is artistic director of the John Drew Theater, is taking on the role.
    Day jobs are something both Ms. Freedman and Ms. Mattson are very much aware of, with Ms. Mattson being an assistant manager at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in East Hampton and Ms. Freedman running Jayne E’s Family Cuts in Springs.
    How do they make Springs Community Theater happen?
    “We’re very lucky. We’ve had a couple of sweet angels helping us. We’ve done fund-raising,” Ms. Freedman said, adding that the advertising in the program helps make the production possible, as well.
    As for being a producer, Ms. Mattson said, “I’m loving it. It’s so much work. It’s fun. It’s a three-month whirlwind.”
    The creation of “Peter Pan” as we now know it was by an interesting, organic process that was only possible in the fertile ground of post-World War II American musical theater.
     Originally a play with musical numbers by Mark Charlap and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, it didn’t do well in its pre-Broadway tour in 1954. The director Jerome Robbins brought in a legendary trio — the composer Jule Styne and lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green — to write additional numbers, creating the musical show that we know today. At the same time, the producers sold the show to NBC for a special TV broadcast the following year, guaranteeing the production’s profitability.
    Most Baby Boomers have childhood memories of a black-and-white Mary Martin as Peter, flying across their screens.
    Now, another generation gets to discover the joy of the boy who wouldn’t grow up. “I’m just a wannabe,” Ms. Freedman said. “I love the kids. I love being Peter Pan. I get to be a kid again.”
    Tickets cost $25 for adults, $15 for those under 18, with special senior citizen tickets available for $20 on the April 14. They can be purchased at theatermania.com or by calling Jayne E’s Family Cuts.