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Fremont Players Let Audiences Play With ‘Peter Pan’

by Kirby Lindsay Laney,
originally posted 16 December 2011

This coming weekend, Dec 9th, 2017, the Fremont Players bring a British Panto version of ‘Cinderella’ to Hale’s Palladium, with original music performed by the Fremont Philharmonic Orchestra.  The following column, with Fremont Players founder Simon Neale, shares some of the inspirations and methods behind the musical madness of this community theater production.  Find tickets to ‘Cinderella’, running on weekends through Jan 14th, 2018, through Brown Paper Tickets.

 

Peter Pan (Debbie Tully) crows while Tinkerbell (Lindsay Erika Crain) and Wendy Darling (Katy Webber) enjoy, during the Fremont Players production of ‘Peter Pan’ Photo by K. Lindsay, Dec 2011

This weekend the Fremont Players perform their version of ‘Peter Pan’ in British Panto-style.  Tickets for this show are selling very fast, and even with the ample seating of Hale’s Palladium there may not be tickets for the four shows this weekend available.

But have no fear, after a two week break for Christmas and New Year’s, the Players return on the weekends of January 7th & 14th to do eight more shows.  Procrastinators will get another chance to do right…and those who loved it the first time can go back and boo and hiss Captain Hook to their hearts content!

Not A Sit Down, Sit Still Show

Each year the Fremont Players stage an original work.  They start at Oregon Country Fair in July, putting on a 45-minute version on the show.  “We’ve figured out the basic structure,” by the time of the Fair, explained Simon Neale, and put it before an audience.

Nurse Nana (Chris Huson) heeds warnings about the Crocodile (Sean Jean Walsh) sneaking up, during the Fremont Players ‘Peter Pan’ Photo by K. Lindsay, Dec ’11

British Panto demands audience participation – actors expect to get booed, cheered and warned when a villain (or an outrageous, hipster crocodile) sneaks up behind them.  The Fremont Players relish this interaction.  No matter that audience members occasionally miss cues, over-play their lines, distract the actors from their parts, or just will not stop talking…it is all fair-game fodder for the cast (and musicians.)

Fremont Players’ Version Of ‘Peter Pan

Audiences enjoy the chance to participate.  The evidence is in the growing fan base that builds upon itself each year.  “Families bring other families,” Neale observed, as he stood in costume after a recent performance.  Families – mostly children – carefully approached him with cautious hellos, or wide-eyed stares.  This year Neale plays, “the sleaziest sleaze to sail the Seven Seas,” a.k.a. Captain Hook.

Nurse Nana (Chris Huson) gets the full ferocity of the Crocodile (Sean Jean Walsh), during the Fremont Players ‘Peter Pan’ Photo by K. Lindsay, Dec ’11

With this production, the Fremont Players present a fairly faithful ‘Peter Pan,’ with plenty of action and creativity, and Chris Huson as Nurse Nana Lilybottom delivering double (maybe even triple) entendres that keep adults hooting.  The music, written by Kiki Hood and Sasha Malinsky and performed by the Fremont Philharmonic Orchestra, delights, and provides fun-filled musical numbers.  If that weren’t enough, the show even has its own comic relief provided by the lost boys Peanut (Candace Reiter) and Hoops (Norma Baum.)

As parents snapped photos of the bravest of the children (with grinning Captain Hook,) they praised the show – and Neale.  When asked, they chose ‘Aladdin’ or last year’s ‘Red Riding Hood & The 3 Little Pigs’ as personal favorites of Fremont Players’ past productions.

Nurse Nana (Chris Huson) gives the Crocodile (Sean Jean Walsh) a fright of his own, during the Fremont Players ‘Peter Pan’ Photo by K. Lindsay, Dec ’11

Neale selected ‘Aladdin,’ in which he played Widow Twankey, a traditional character from British Panto – and one Neale has done very, very well.

Mistakes Allowed, Playfulness Expected

“It’s not a 5th Avenue production,” Neale admitted about the Fremont Players community theater.  The performers get paid, but they don’t necessarily act year ‘round.  The sets and staging lack the polish and outrageous production values of a large, professional theater.  Yet, for many, “that’s half the charm of it,” explained Neale, “we’re not afraid to make mistakes, and we play with it.”

Tinkerbell (Lindsay Erika Crain) unfortunately confides in Captain Hook (Simon Neale,) in the 2011/12 production of ‘Peter Pan’ by the Fremont Players. Photo by K. Lindsay

They also play with the script.  Neale founded the Players in 2001, but most of the cast have been with him for years – and all participate in the writing of each show during improvisation sessions.  “I love that process,” Neale admitted.

Each year a new face also joins the merriment, and lends a new outlook to the production.  This year Lindsay Erika Crain joined the Players, giving them a thoroughly charming Tinkerbell.  Ultimately though, the shouting, laughing and participating audience really give the Fremont Players something to play with.

“We extended another week this year,” Neale explained, about the performances that will extend into mid-January, “because the demand last year for tickets was so high.”  As shows sell out this weekend, hopefully audiences will plan ahead and order ahead for January.

No matter when you go, be ready to boo and hiss – and swear that, “I believe in faries!”  Audiences at British Panto, “don’t have to sit there and be quiet,” Neale encouraged.  Personally, I’d also suggest, when you go, that you keep a close eye on Hook – and his wandering hook…


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©2011 Kirby Lindsay.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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