It's easy to forget what a wonderful musical "Peter Pan" is.
It's a show about kids, about fantasies and fairies, and that makes it natural to think of it as a show that's meant to appeal only to kids.
But the current production from Manatee Players reminds us that "Peter Pan" is a sophisticated show with beautiful, complex music, appealing characters and a poignant story.
The Manatee Players' staging adds some very pretty singing and some fine acing from its mostly young cast, as well some really little kid actors who are just the cutest things you've ever seen.
Anna Trinci, who was Cosette in Manatee Players' "Les Miserables" earlier this season, is terrific in the title role. Her voice is gorgeous and her acting is on-target. She shows off of some real grace and athleticism in the flying scenes.
Those flying scenes, by way, are beautifully done. Manatee Players hired a company that have created flying effects for shows all over the country. You obviously go into "Peter Pan" knowing you're going to see people fly, but the complexity of the effects are still surprising. The wires are always very visible, but it doesn't really matter.
A bigger problem with almost every staging of "Peter Pan" is that the title role is almost always played by a young woman, and it's usually hard to "see" the actor as boy. Trinci has a good look and good body language for a boy, so that aspect of her performance is very believable, but her singing voice is clearly feminine.
Director Steve Dawson has to get some very young performers -- some making their stage debut -- to do some pretty complicated things, including synchronized dance moves, and for the most part they're impressive.
Greg Wiegers as Hook and Scott Vitale as his sidekick Smee are both loads of fun, and Zoe Verbil's strong as Wendy, by far the show's most emotionally complex part.
All the design work -- sets by Donna Buckalter, costumes by David W. Walker and lighting by Joseph P. Oshry -- is attractive and evocative.
There's only one real weakness in the musical itself, and that's the famous scene in which Tinkerbelle is dying and the audience has to save her by believing in fairies. It's probably appealing for very young kids, but for anyone else it's hokey, and the show's magic is broken when Peter speaks directly to the audience.
There's one major problem with this production, and that's the use of recorded music throughout. It's well-played, but it has an obviously recorded sound that's inappropriate for a live performance, especially in extended instrumental sequences.
Details: Through Dec. 22 at Stone Hall in the Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave, W., Bradenton. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets are $26-$36. Call 941-748-5875, or go to www.manateeplayers.com.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.