Review by Sophia Rooksberry, Walnut Hills High School Cappies Critic Team
Faith, trust, and a little bit of pixie dust didn't only give Peter and Tinker Bell the ability to fly; the company at William Henry Harrison High School soared past the second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning with their stunning rendition of "Peter Pan."
By chance, a young woodland boy named Peter Pan happens upon the nursery of the three Darling children and brings them back home with him to Neverland, a place in the stars where children swear never to grow up. A story loaded with evil pirates, magical sylvan creatures, and the naïvite of children dreading adulthood, "Peter Pan" is known for inspiring and entertaining audiences of all ages.
The cast of "Peter Pan" matched the enrapturing energy of the lead performers with the dedication of the supporting ensemble to weave together a moving production of the timeless story.
In the title role of Peter Pan, Courtney Reckelhoff honored tradition with her boyish charm and carefree attitude, while adding a touch of femininity to the character with her remarkable vibrato and soprano allure. In the role of Captain Hook, Reckelhoff's male counterpart, Lane Busby. brilliantly executed his performance with a childish take on Hook's infamous conspiracies and a booming baritone sound. These two fabulous performers crafted a rivalry comparable to that of feuding siblings, involving a slightly greater amount of aerodynamics.
In a land where a false sense of security can mean life or death, suspense is everything. The collective energy of the pirate ensemble kept the audience on the edge of their seats, as they crept through the woods trying to capture the Lost Boys, and their interactions with Noah Brown as the Crocodile resulted in the show's most side-splitting moments.
Most children who grew up reading "Peter Pan" have fantasized about what a real-life Neverland would look like. The brilliant set of "Peter Pan" looked as if it came right out of a storybook with an iridescent waterfall and larger-than-life elements of the forest.
Contributing to the magic of the set was the precise cue-calling from stage management and the ethereal makeup design. Despite the muffled microphones in some scenes, the actor pushed through and never lost focus.
Overall, a job well done by William Henry Harrison High School, who, with dazzling performers, an exquisite set, and lots of glitter, were able to convince the most unyielding minds that believing is all it takes.
Review by Anna Colletto, Loveland High School Cappies Critic Team
In a show filled with fairies, swashbuckling pirates, Indian warriors, flying children, and of course, the most remarkable boy in the world, Willian Henry Harrison High School flew audiences to a world of make-believe and imagination this weekend in their magical production of "Peter Pan."
A dashing figure bursts into the Darling's nursery, flying through a massive window in a cloud of silver pixie dust, looking for his sweet shadow. So begins Harrison's technically mystifying production of Peter Pan. The cast takes no break, soaring through the air, diving off stage, dancing through the jungle, and creating a world of splendor and imagination.
Willian Henry Harrison High School's Production follows the 1954 Musical, based on J. M. Barrie's 1904 play "Peter Pan," and respects the traditions of the classic work while also paying homage to the artistic motifs in Disney's movie musical. The musical follows the three Darling children, Wendy, Michael, and John in their journey to Neverland, a world where children never grow up, with the help of the ever-so-clever Peter Pan and his fairy Tinkerbell. While playing in the world of pirate ships and enchanted forest creatures, the children learn the importance of family, magic, and belief.
This staging was brilliantly anchored by the commitment and energy of the principle cast, inventive technical artistry, and impeccable attention to detail. Additionally, the various ensembles brought life and hilarity to each large number, allowing the island of Neverland to blossom on stage.
The production would not be complete, of course, without its leading "lady" in the role of Peter. Courtney Reckelhoff fantastically maintained the boyish charm and physicality of the daunting role, all with ease and obvious passion. Beyond the acting, Reckelhoff's impressive vocal chops and clarity were put in the spotlight in this production- often nostalgically sounding like the 1954 recording of the original production. Captain Hook's performance must also be mentioned in consideration of this production. Bringing dynamic energy and hilarity to the scariest villain on the seven seas, Lane Busby captured the stage as Hook with impressive depth and comedic timing.
Filled with shocking talent, the ensemble of Harrison's production held incredible dancers in the Forest Creatures. The Ostrich (Lylla Kovacs), Forest Dancers (Robby Mumfrey and Zach Treinen), and Tiger Lilly (Emma Roush) all wowed audiences with impressive demonstrations of technique and skill. The three Darling Children, Livvy Stubenrauch, Matthew Rudolph, and Parker Lawhorn (noted that Rudolph and Lawhorn are Junior High students) also brought great shows of talent to the production, exemplifying the desired themes of make-believe in Harrison's direction.
Technically the show excelled with creative and artistic attention to detail in all aspects. Most notable, of course, was the fly system set up to allow for real flight on stage. Apart from that, the lighting and set design for the production brought "Peter Pan" to a new level- especially in the transition to Neverland. While there were some mic issues in some places, the overall recovery time and professional nature of the tech made up for it twofold.
Harrison High School's first Cappies production was a sight to see, bringing audiences back to a time of pirates and Indians and playing House. From the design to the cast, "Peter Pan" was an "awfully big adventure," leaving audiences with a newfound belief in magic- and of course, in fairies.
Review by Juli Russ, Highlands High School Cappies Critic Team
Populated by mischievous fairies, lost boys, and ruthless pirates alike, William Henry Harrison High School's cast and crew brought Neverland to life onstage in their production of "Peter Pan." With a little bit of faith, trust, and pixie dust, this whimsical story of adolescent dreams helped audience members of all ages start to believe in magic again.
Based on J. M. Barrie's original play from 1904, this quintessential tale follows the young Darling children as they are swept from their nursery and flown into a world where growing up isn't required. Accompanied by the magical, motherless Peter Pan, his impish fairy friend, Tinkerbell, and his gang of Lost Boys, the children soon find themselves stuck in a feud involving the terrible Captain Hook and his band of belligerent pirates. This classic story of imagination, sacrifice, and love perfectly illustrates the pain and loss involved with growing up.
William Henry Harrison High School's production was second-to-none with unparalleled acting talents and technical elements blending seamlessly to create a show with vivacity, humor, and charm.
One of the cast's most notable talents was actress Courtney Reckelhoff in her role as Peter Pan. Peter is traditionally played by a woman in onstage productions, and Reckelhoff's consistent, buoyant energy throughout the show proved that she absolutely personified the role. Facing the daunting challenge of executing choreography on the flying rig, Reckelhoff and Livvy Stubenrauch, playing Wendy Darling, radiated chemistry. As she and Stubenrauch flew with Matthew Rudolph and Parker Lawhorn, in their respective roles as John and Michael Darling, Reckelhoff sprinkled "pixie dust" in the air to create the beautiful segue to Neverland.
The performance was punctuated by multiple periods of transition in which forest creatures such as the Ostrich, played by Lylla Kovacs, and the Kangaroo, portrayed by Lyndsi Moore, danced across the stage. Kovacs, in particular, wore pointe shoes for her role, and her unique ballet skills, including difficult jumps and footwork, were simply breathtaking. In addition, Noah Brown provided comedic relief throughout the show in his role as the Darling family's dog, Nana, and the Crocodile, who, much to Captain Hook's dismay, made multiple appearances.
Not to be overlooked were the technical elements of this production which proved both challenging and unique. Student Director Antonio Mumfrey operated the Tinkerbell laser and also played a major part in coordinating with local robotics students to create the effect of Tinkerbell entering and exiting. The stage manager, Anna Tumlin, masterfully executed rapid transitions between sets and scenes. Student choreography, featured in the number "I Won't Grow Up," also demonstrated the dedication and passion that went into all aspects of this production.
William Henry Harrison High School's performance of "Peter Pan" was filled with whimsy and mirth as the seemingly lighthearted tale's deeper message was beautifully illustrated onstage through the efforts of the cast and crew. With laughter, love, and loss, this performance truly exemplified the magic of youthful glory.
Excerpts from Top Reviews
“The set was one of the most impressive aspects of the production as it painted fictional Never- Land as both alluring and mysterious. It came to life when Tinkerbell's light shot across the stage and into various objects, such as a drawer, a vase, and a doll house. The items both glowed and moved to give life to the luminescent Tink and enhanced the feeling of true magic.”
-Claire Yoder, Loveland High School
“Neverland truly became magical when the ensembles took to the stage, including the Pirates and Indians. The Pirates contributed a medley of intensity, aggression, and comedy with their strong vocals in "Hook's Tango," and the Polynesian-inspired Indians showcased sharp and synchronized dance skills, led by the fearless Tiger Lily (Emma Roush).”
-Lexie Kemble, Mercy McAuley High School
“The props were inventive and properly suited to the time period. The mesh fabric as Peter's shadow was particularly creative. The lighting was done by the auditorium manager, but the board was run by students and allowed for lights to be well-done and well-timed. Scene changes were somewhat lengthy, but this was understandable due to the size and intricacy of the set pieces.”
-Elizabeth Mitan, William Mason High School
“The crew also supported the childish nature of "Peter Pan". Stage Management/Stage Crew led by Anna Tumlin, Ava Kugler and Caroline McElroy, performed their scene changes in a quick and orderly fashion. Changes were also done behind the curtain in order to keep the magic of Neverland alive.”
-Caitlin Boutwell, Ursuline Academy
“Lane Busby, as Captain Hook, balanced the comedic and threatening nature of the character while being surrounded by his energetic and well-costumed pirate crew. The interaction between Pan and Hook in "Oh My Mysterious Lady" had the audience rolling as Busby hammed up his act, and Reckelhoff executed some impressive vocals.”
-MJ Gabriel, Mercy McAuley High School
“One of the standout performances of the show was given by Courtney Reckelhoff in the titular role of Peter Pan. She was exceedingly charming and enthusiastic, brightening every scene she was in. Rigged and flown more than any other character, she was graceful and made flight appear natural as she seemed to effortlessly glide across the stage.”
-Iris LeCates, Walnut Hills High School
“The first introduction to Neverland felt as if it was straight out of a storybook, with whimsical attributes that were executed wonderfully. The hair and makeup, all done by Alicia Morehead who also played Grown Up Wendy, was superb. It fit the time period well and added to the magic of Neverland.”
-Mattie Flynn, Mercy McAuley High School
About The Cappies of Greater Cincinnati
The Critics and Awards Program strives to recognize Greater Cincinnati’s talented community of young writers, performers, and technical crews. High school theatre and journalism students who participate in the Cappies program are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, and write and publish reviews. At the end of the school year, the student critics vote to give awards to their fellow students for outstanding productions, group and individual performances, and achievements in technical categories. Awards are presented at the annual Cappies Gala. Find more reviews at CinciCap.com/reviews.