The opening performance of Pacific Ridge’s high-energy smile fest took place last night at the Sunshine Brooks Theater in Oceanside to a great reception from its audience. A huge array of talent was on display, from sparkling choreography to innovative set design, and the direction of the piece was cleverly conceived and perfectly executed by Katy Cannata.
The leads were dazzling. Gabriel Lopez pitched his Peter just right as the charming but self-important boy from Wendy’s dreams, and Wendy herself (Caroline Peret) was an entirely believable older sister who carried some difficult singing solos beautifully. Younger brothers Nicolas Bohrer (John) and the endlessly sweet Sanjeev Varma as Michael (apologies Sanjeev, but it’s true) were adorable, funny and stayed in character every second they were on stage.
It’s fair to say that Tinkerbell’s loss of wig part way through stole the show, but only made it more enjoyable and heartwarming (Genevieve Unikewicz continued unabashed and performed some jaw-dropping gymnastics at the same time).
Captain Hook/Mr Darling (Gibson Witz) stepped straight out of a Broadway pantomime, with his rip-roaring and hilarious delivery, making Hook, if anything, far too likeable and wonderfully funny, accompanied by a perfectly understated, long-suffering Smee (Luke Basanese) who was the best possible sidekick. Tiger Lily’s voice - Sophia Chan - was mesmerising.
None of this detracts from the brilliance of the ensemble - fairies, mermaids, pirates, lost boys, warriors (and a rather lovely crocodile). The sheer enthusiasm on stage from the chorus was what made the production so very watchable. So many songs, dances, technical processes were learned and perfected in such a short period of time, that it was easy to forget how young the performers and crew are. This was a thoroughly professional show, wonderfully presented, with amazing backup from the off-stage heroes who put it all together. A tremendous well done to all involved. Enjoy the rest of the run. You deserve to have as much fun with it as you gave your audience yesterday. You should be very, very proud of yourselves.