Friday, June 10, 2011

Here in Neverland

The U.S. premiere production of the “Peter Pan” musical written by internationally acclaimed composer and lyricist George Stiles and Anthony Drewe is currently playing at the Tri-County Performing Arts Center, and Stiles and Drewe came from London this week to attend the musical production.
Let’s repeat that:
The U.S. PREMIERE production of the “Peter Pan” musical written by INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED composer and lyricist George Stiles and Anthony Drewe is CURRENTLY PLAYING at the Tri-County Performing Arts Center, and Stiles and Drewe came FROM LONDON this week to attend the musical production.
The critique of the local production by these two men -- who are a fixture in London theatre, are known as writers and producers the world round, and who cite “Spielberg” as a colleague in casual conversation -- was in a word, “Wow!”
Composer Stiles and lyricist Drewe attended Thursday night’s soldout performance of their show at the invitation of Tri-PAC and afterward spoke at a reception for cast and guests.
“I have one very short word for all of you,” said Stiles, before taking questions from the cast and followers. “WOW!”
Interviewed moments after the three-hour extravaganza featuring airborne Darlings, tumbling Lost Boys, and a delightfully sinister band of pirates had ended, Drewe and Stiles came into the reception, animated about the local company’s handling of their musical.
“This was a fantastically accomplished production,” said Stiles. “They did ambitious things with our show and brought places to life that we hadn’t even dreamed of -- snakes in trees to monkeys in Neverland forest -- they absolutely excelled.”
“This is true community theater,” added Drewe. “Not only is the theater here in the heart of your community, but the show itself reaches out into the audience and involves the community.
“Every town should have a theater like this.”
The passion for community theater is what convinced Stiles and Drewe to provide rights for the first U.S. showing of their “Peter Pan” in an unlikely small town in Pennsylvania.
Tri-PAC executive director Marta Kiesling and artistic director Deborah Stimson-Snow contacted Drewe and Stiles through their website, then spoke to them on Skype about staging “Peter Pan.” The process took more than a year.
“We wanted to make this show available to someone who had a strong desire to do it, and Marta was very convincing,” said Stiles. “They had performed ‘Honk!’ and told us they liked it and wanted to use another of our shows. When we talked to them, we were impressed with their passion.”
Both Stiles and Drewe said they were impressed as well with the mix of professional, amateur and student acting they witnessed Thursday night. “We applaud this model,” said Drewe, “involving talented students from your schools and putting them alongside professionals -- a tremendous community theater model.”
On Thursday night, while the visitors from London enjoyed a buffet of Grumpy’s sandwiches, Argento’s Pizza, home-baked and caterer-donated cookies and cupcakes, the simmering heat on High Street had been broken by thunderstorms.
Boyertown Area and Phoenixville Area high school classes had commencements, albeit interrupted by a storm of thunder and hail. Students were sent home early from area schools due to the heat, something “never” done in years past.
In living rooms, TVs were on while some stayed up late watching the Phillies blow a lead in the 11th inning.
Earlier in the day, a group of state legislators stood alongside Route 422 to explain why tolls will “never” work here.
An evening earlier in borough hall, council members heard a proposal that will cost money the borough doesn’t have and grappled with complaints that they’ve heard a dozen times before.
Life went on at its usual pace, people talking about the heat and traffic and school taxes, noting some things “never” change.
In the midst of all that, two visitors from London came to witness their play produced for the first time in the U.S.
Here in Pottstown.
Let’s repeat that: HERE IN POTTSTOWN.
In a town that tends to behave like a land of “never,” Tri-PAC has brought community theater to life.
There is an opportunity here to build something magical and uplift the community. World-renowned composers see the potential; why can’t we?

How you can help

Bringing this spectacular production to Pottstown with its technical equipment, is a costly venture. To help offset the cost, Tri-County Performing Arts Center, a non-profit 501(c)(3) performing arts organization located at 245 E. High Street, Pottstown, introduced the ‘Fly to Never Land’ Challenge. The financial goal for this initiative is $20,000. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, every dollar donated will be matched 100%, up to a total of $5,000.
There are many reward options to consider, including autographed show posters, personal phone calls from characters of the show, post-show tour of the backstage and flying effects, tickets to the show, the option to present the on-stage curtain speech, a photo session with show characters on set, a private pre-show wine and cheese reception, and more! Plus every donation to the ‘Fly to Never Land’ Challenge will automatically be entered to win a personal appearance by Peter Pan at a party for a child age 10 and under.

Details about the ‘Fly to Never Land’ Challenge are available online. Visitors can watch a special video message about the challenge, learn why your support is important, review the various rewards available, and view the vibrant show poster, as well as make a donation and purchase tickets to performances of "Peter Pan.'