Time is running out to fly off to Neverland

Vandalia Youth Theatre’s Senior Production of Mark Charlap, Jule Styne, Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green’s classic 1954 musical comedy “Peter Pan” concludes Sunday, July 24 at Northridge High School.

Based on J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play, this tuneful, family-friendly gem chronicles the mischievous Peter Pan and his pal Tinkerbell who whisk the precocious Darling siblings to Neverland where they meet and conquer the villainous Captain Hook. The daring adventures throughout the fanciful action are accented by such dandy songs as “I’m Flying,” “Never Never Land,” “Wendy,” “I Won’t Grow Up,” and “Captain Hook’s Waltz.”

“This show means so much to me,” said director Michael Wadham, staging his 13th VYT production. “It certainly speaks to the joy of youth but also the complexity of growing up and how situations become more complicated. The students continue to inspire me every year simply by how they look at certain things. They are able to restore my faith in humanity which I appreciate. Youth is fleeting, but in ‘Peter Pan’ it isn’t.”

Wadham says he and music director Natalie Houliston originally planned to aim for a darker take on the material, but found a new path during discussions with the cast, which primarily consists of students in grades 9-12 from schools all across the Miami Valley.

“The complexity of the material initially appealed to me especially Peter’s attempt to restore his freedom,” he said. “But our students wanted something more light and cheery so we’ve offered a blend of the two. But Peter’s complexity is definitely highlighted. We’ve definitely done some things non-conventionally but that’s our way. At VYT we like to tackle certain moments in a special way.”

The large cast features principals Maria Baldasare as Peter Pan, Rollie Fisk as Captain Hook, Annie Livesay as Wendy Darling, Ryan Gibson as John Darling, Noah Rutkowski as Michael Darling, Clare Kneblik as Mrs. Darling, Tyler Hanson as Mr. Darling, Kinsey Stormer as Tinkerbell, Bennett Davis as Smee, and Caroline Eifert as Tiger Lily.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of VYT whose mission of education and inclusion continues to make a mark in the community. Many students past and present have been specifically connected to the Muse Machine as well. Wadham views the all-volunteer organization as a close-knit family driven by a shared passion of the arts and its vital impact in the lives of young people even beyond the artistic realm.

“We’re very proud of the work we do because we put so much into it,” he said. “Our biggest problem is that everybody cares too much and that’s a great problem to have. Everything we do is rooted in love and I hope audiences recognize that to the fullest. We also empower our students to do more than perform, to do more than just put on a show together. We want them to think critically, be more civic-minded, and embrace leadership, responsibility and accountability. We want to enrich their spirits.”

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