In Peter Pan’s Neverland, kids don’t always get the chance to make the big decisions, but at Jones Elementary School in Severna Park, the kids were in charge of choosing their spring musical.
Nina McCarthy, the musical’s producer, wanted to do something fun that offered ample opportunity for everyone to be featured. After several options were narrowed down to three, McCarthy and her production team let the kids vote on which musical they wanted to perform, and “Peter Pan” flew to the top of the list.
“I think not wanting to grow up is a theme that will never become unfamiliar to audiences,” McCarthy said. “Especially when dealing with fourth- and fifth-graders who are on the precipice of entering the next stage of childhood and becoming one step closer to growing up. There’s a comfort in childhood and elementary school that I think most people can relate to.”
Auditions took place in November, and a cast of performers have been working hard ever since.
“This is a wonderful group of children who have taken ownership over the roles,” McCarthy said. “Patrick Alden was literally born to be Peter Pan. He is the embodiment of boyhood energy. Sophie Miller has a lovely singing voice and a maternal instinct that fits her role so well, and Liam Ellis has a sense of humor and command of the stage that the character of Captain Hook requires.”
Patrick said the cast members are all friends, which makes acting easy.
“I play Peter Pan with high energy, happiness and comedy,” Patrick said. “Because we know each other well and know how each other will act, it’s really fun to play off of each other. I think people can see how happy we are.”
Best friends Carter Campbell and Charlie LaBrier play brothers John and Michael Darling, respectively, in the production. Carter is happy to portray John because he gets to act alongside Charlie.
“A lot of us are best friends, and this musical gives us a chance to perform together as a group,” Charlie said. “Carter is a really good actor, and I like being his brother onstage.”
Charlie likes the role of Michael because he admires his character’s energy and thoughts and said Michael’s thoughts are his energy.
Co-producer Kim Alden is in awe of the joy the cast exudes.
“These students love to sing and dance, and once the music starts, they are eager to run songs again,” Alden said. “The hardest number of the show is the first one we learned with choreography, and it’s great to hear them say, ‘Can we do it again?’ even after going through the song multiple times. I think it’s just the chance to perform and be with other friends and tell a story that makes them so eager to continue.”
Sophie, who plays Wendy Darling, is having a fun time because her best friend is also in the production. Now in her second musical at Jones, she’s already looking forward to performing with the drama team at Severna Park Middle School.
Liam believes Captain Hook is the best character in the production.
“I think Captain Hook is hilarious, and people say we have the same personality,” said Liam, who makes Captain Hook gestures and speaks in Hook’s dialect even when not rehearsing.
Tiger Lily is portrayed by Quinn McCarthy, who loves her character’s bravery. Quinn said Tiger Lily exemplifies the courage it takes for her to get on the stage in front of an audience.
“I’m honored to have a great cast that makes me laugh and also who work very hard,” said director Malarie Zeeks. “I don’t doubt that I will see many of these kids continue in theater, music, dance or set and technical design.”
The stage will be brought to life by a student stage crew, parent volunteers and Jones Elementary alumni. There are four main scenes: the Darling nursery; Neverland; the Underground where the Lost Boys live; and the Jolly Roger, Captain Hook’s ship.
Performances will take place on March 17 and 18 at 7:00pm, and March 19 at 2:00pm. Tickets will be available at the door at 122 Hoyle Lane in Severna Park.
Zeeks said the team has flexed their creative muscles by creating new ways to tell the story and to fly.
“Audiences will be guaranteed to leave with a smile on their faces and new songs to sing,” Zeeks said.