Cappies Review of Wendy and Peter Pan at Oakton High School

By FCPS Office of Communication and Community Relations
Performing Arts
January 12, 2023

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Fairfax County Public Schools students are talented actors, musicians, and visual artists. Many FCPS high schools participate in the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Critics and Awards Program for High School Theatre, otherwise known as the Cappies.

The Cappies is a program through which high school theater and journalism students are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, write reviews, and publish those reviews in local newspapers. There are fifteen Cappies chapters across the United States and Canada. 

Editor's Note: This review of Oakton High School's production of Wendy and Peter Pan, is written by Alexander Perry of Lake Braddock Secondary School

According to Peter Pan, happy thoughts cause flight, so the company of Oakton High School must have been soaring straight to Neverland after their latest show. In Oakton's stellar production of Wendy & Peter Pan, the audience flew to a whimsical world of swashbuckling pirates, enchanting fairies, and immature children.

J. M. Barrie's classic tale of Peter and Wendy, written in 1904, has been subject to many interpretations, including musicals, films, and several rewrites. In 2013, Ella Hickson flipped Barrie's script upside down, thrusting Wendy into the protagonist's role in a feminist rendition of the original story. Hickson's version provides more growth, motivation, and entertainment, which Oakton translated skillfully in their heartwarming performance.

Portraying popular characters can be daunting, but Gwen Ihde and Colt Craddock never shrank from the challenge. Ihde's performance as Wendy added depth to a traditionally static character. She mastered the stages of grief while maintaining an enjoyably youthful enthusiasm. Craddock, portraying the effervescent Peter Pan, had a similar eagerness, bounding across the stage with joy. Impressively, Craddock managed to strip away this childish glow when unhappy, a refined take on the frequently bubbly character. Together, the couple led the cast through the loveable, emotional tale.

Every great adventure deserves a despicable villain, and Kyumin Kim delivered with Captain Hook. Kim shifted between insanity and superiority, with an arrogant voice and devilish facial features, easily hateable from his first entrance. Another brilliant supporting character was Tink, portrayed by Kaitlyn McCarley. Adding an accent to an established character can be risky, but McCarley's choice to speak like a New Yorker fit perfectly with her feisty fairy.

Movement played a crucial role in Oakton's performance, and two unique technical aspects helped the actors shine. Eliot Hettler, the special effects head, implemented a seamless fly system, allowing the performers to soar across the sky. Hooked onto ropes, Peter, Wendy, and her brothers floated unexpectedly, with speed and precision. The stage combat, choreographed by Pyro Maguire, gave special consideration to each character. Peter slashed aggressively, while Hook employed refined stabs, a difference that ensured highly entertaining duels.

Neverland thrived off the animated ensembles of the Pirates and the Lost Boys, two groups with mesmerizing presence. The boisterous pirates crawled around the stage, entering through the audience with a cacophony of deranged screams. The opposing Lost Boys utilized high-pitched tones, restless fidgeting, and intense emotional shifts, nailing the features of adolescent boys. Both groups' actors interacted with each other deliberately while maintaining distinctive attributes, including limps, vocal patterns, or entertaining quirks (such as one Lost Boy's affinity for Marshmallows)!

Shane Roy built breathtaking sets that exemplified the contrast between the enemy groups. The pirate's Jolly Roger was painted jet-black and scarlet with scattered rope, lanterns, and piracy symbolism. The Lost Boys' three-layered abode had a softer pallet of calming browns and greens. The costumes, designed by Emerson Wilson, similarly separated the ensembles, dressing the pirates in dark, grungy uniforms while the Lost Boys wore lightly colored fabric. These distinctions displayed a commendable understanding of the characters and greatly aided the actor's performances.

Oakton High School excelled in its rendition of a well-loved story. With beautiful designs and incredible acting, Peter Pan left the audience searching for their own "awfully big adventure."