The view from the conductor chair at North Shore Music Theatre includes a panoramic view of the audience, akin to one of those wonderful 1940s Weegee photographs of moviegoers. It’s a front row seat not only to the play but to the audience. There are, of course, the adults: the middle-aged man asleep in the second row, the young couple holding hands and stealing a kiss during the overture, the woman with a glass of wine in both hands during the matinee (and I am not judging her in the least). You have the family dressed in matching polos, and the woman with the Kentucky Derby hat. And then there are the children, buzzing with adolescent energy and anticipation. There’s the boy dressed from head to toe in his Peter Pan Halloween costume from last year and the impossibly cute trio of Tinkerbells weaving in and out of their mothers’ legs. There’s the older generation of theatergoers too who seem so content sitting there, waiting to be swept away by a familiar story.
I’ll be honest, I never grew up with the story of Peter Pan. Despite sharing a first name, Peter’s tale was always on the periphery for me. I didn’t necessarily understand it’s appeal in a personal sense. The idea of never growing up was interesting, but a part of me also loved the thought of getting older and doing all the fun adult things, like taking a road trip and owning a house and getting a nose hair trimmer for Christmas (don’t ask). It took me sitting in that conductor chair, watching the audience’s reaction the first night, to go, “Oh. I get it.” Here in front of me was the sleepy man in the front row, the little girl dressed as Tinkerbell, the slightly inebriated socialite, the woman with the hat, the 70-year-old gay couple – all suddenly awake with the same exact look of what I can only call “wonder” as Peter, Wendy, Michael, and John began to fly right in front of them. “That’s what it’s about,” I thought. The wonder of it all. The wonder of childhood, seeing the world for what it could be.
Wendy eventually grows up. Time soldiers on. Life gets tough, sometimes impossibly so. But children remind us that we still have access to one of our greatest gifts: our imagination. And if there’s ever a time when we need a reminder of what the world could be like, it’s right now.
I’m so thankful to the kind folks at NSMT, our directors Bob and Diane, the cast, crew, and musicians for the chance to bring this story to life.