James Barrie's "Peter Pan" will truly soar when the Alameda High School production of the cherished musical takes flight March 19 to 27.
Director Fred Chacon has enlisted the services of Flying by Foy, the company that has set the industry standards for more than 50 years. Developed by Peter Foy, the theatrical flying system uses pulleys, tracks, cables and harnesses. Foy's innovative designs were first used to take Mary Martin aloft in the 1954 Broadway production of "Peter Pan." Since then, his apparatus and techniques have been used in "The Lion King," "Aida," "The Flying Nun" and "Monty Python's Spamalot" among others.
"Technicians from Foy do all the rigging and train our crew and the actors how to fly," says Chacon, who, along with choreographer Christina Lazo, has carefully choreographed the action so actors end up flying to the correct spot and not into a wall or other obstacle.
"We're so fortunate to have a very supportive community and parents who donate to the program so we can offer such a first-class production," Chacon says. Thanks to those donations as well as ticket revenue from previous productions, Chacon cannot only fly the actors but also hire fight choreographer Dexter Fidler to give a professional touch to the exciting battles between the Lost Boys and the pirates.
"It's really cool," says 17-year-old senior Kristin Little, who plays Peter. "For the first few days, we did the fight scenes in slow motion to be sure we knew what we were doing and that we were safe." Fidler has the students using rapiers with tips on the end.
"They're much lighter and easier to use," adds Alec Mathieson. The 16-year-old junior takes his role of Captain Hook seriously. "I've been doing a lot of research on the part," explains Mathieson. "I think I've seen just about every movie about Captain Hook and read lots of books."
Little has also been doing research on her part and notes that Peter can be rather mean and self-absorbed. "In the original story, there wasn't a Captain Hook," she explains. "Peter was more the antagonist." To add to the authenticity of her role, Little cut her shoulder-length hair into the boyish shag associated with Peter.
Coordinating the ambitious production is a challenge Chacon is more than up to. The teacher has been at Alameda High for 26 years, staging elaborate productions of shows such as "Beauty and the Beast," "Fiddler on the Roof" and last year's "Zombie Prom."
For "Peter Pan," Chacon has staged the various dance numbers and scenes not requiring flying early in the rehearsal process. "We knew that the rigging and technicians would come the week before we open and that we'd have to concentrate on training the students how to fly," says Chacon.
And not just to fly, but to fly through the large window in the Darling's nursery. "The set is very elaborate. You have the Darling's house, the forest, and a big ship," he says. "Lots and lots of hours have gone into putting the set together."
"Peter Pan" runs at 7:30 p.m. March 19, 20, 25, 26, and 27 and at 2 p.m. March 21 at the Kofman Auditorium, 220 Encinal Ave. Tickets are $12 students and $15 adults, available by calling 510-337-7022, ext. 5633.