Chicago Shakespeare Theater's production of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe's musical based on the J.M. Barrie classic is a captivating 75 minutes for both adults and children. The story centers on Peter Pan, played with lightness and impish excitement by Johnny Shea, who teaches the Darling children, led by Elizabeth Stenhold's precocious and adventurous Wendy, how to fly to Neverland: "second star to the right and straight on 'til morning." This is where things really get magical, thanks to flying effects created by ZFX. Peter Pan flies up to the rafters and out over the crowd, impressing everyone, including my five-year-old nephew. He later asked how the pulley systems worked, expressing a healthy interest in backstage mechanics.
Amber Mak's Chicago Shakespeare directing debut uses imaginative staging, set design, and choreography to bring the book to life, inspiring wide-eyed awe from most junior audience members. The cast keeps up the energy with clever use of the multilevel set, percussive instruments, and audience interaction in the aisles. The Lost Boys (Travis Austin Wright, Michael Kurowski, Colin Lawrence, and John Marshall Jr.) are a special treat, bounding across the stage with a blustery confidence that eventually reveals a deep desire for a nurturing family. The musical could use a trim of some of the longer and slower ballads throughout, though. Around the 60-minute mark on the afternoon I attended, kids around the room were audibly antsy, and conversation levels rose. v