Peter Pan — Reimagined will be presented Aug. 26 and 27 by the New Paradigm Theatre Company at the Fairfield Theatre Company’s Warehouse venue. While the beloved script and songs will remain the same, the multiethnic and multifaceted cast features area youth sharing the stage with seasoned theater professionals in a way that will be relevant to today’s audiences.
Tying in the idea of “stimulating a child’s imagination so they can create a better world,” the production will take place in the Darling children’s nursery — and in the imaginations of the children.
“I’ve always wanted to do Peter Pan as being all in the children’s imagination, as children playing, using puppetry, masks, shadows,” said Martin Marchitto, who is directing and designing the show. “I was so happy when Kristen said yes when we were discussing ideas for this year’s show.” Kristen is Kristen Huffman, founder and artistic director of New Paradigm Theatre Company.
“So everything is in the nursery,” he continued. “Toys on the shelves include a pirate ship and Pirates and Natives; there will be a stuffed toy crocodile and ticking clock; the children initially fly by jumping on their beds — then blue screen flying sequences will be used as they imagine flight. This is a fresh look, a new way of telling the story; I’ve thought about this concept for years, being very true to the story but ‘in your dreams.’ The costumes will be contemporary themed; Peter will wear a green jean jacket, Hook’s look will be a nod to steampunk and since the lost children are from different times, their clothes will be pulled from different decades.”
After many years in the theater, including making her Broadway debut portraying Sarah in the 2006 Tony Award-winning revival of Company, and being involved in teaching and community outreach, Huffman established New Paradigm Theatre Company (NPT) in 2012. The mission is “a professional theater fostering creative problem solvers, leaders and global citizens through theatre arts education and productions,” with the emphasis on working with children in underserved communities where arts programs have been reduced or cut in schools.
NPT began by doing rollout performances and custom-designed concerts with nonprofits, combining three or four of Huffman’s friends from Broadway, many of them teachers as well as performers, with local kids. She also established the After School at The Klein (ASK) program, which offers free performing arts courses to Bridgeport eighth to twelfth graders, and created an adult and youth board of directors to address what “we can do with arts education, which morphed into Oliver — Reinvented last year.”
“I don’t think new theater groups will survive unless they really work with their communities,” Huffman said. “NPT’s premier nonprofit partner is KEYS [Kids Empowered by Your Support], whose mission is to bring one-to-one instrument lessons and group music instruction to underserved inner-city children.
Oliver highlighted the theme of that show — poverty and hunger…to hope — by showcasing the work of the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport, which hosts soup kitchens and pantries. By aligning with this partner nonprofit, NPT helped raise donations during the show and the cast volunteered at the soup kitchen during the rehearsal process. Many new volunteers signed up to help serve at the soup kitchens and conduct food drives. We are partnering with the Bridgeport groups again this year.”
Huffman noted that Peter Pan with Sandy Duncan was the first Broadway show she saw, and when the decision was made to produce the show this year, “I asked friends on Facebook if anyone was in contact with Sandy. When I was able to make contact with her and explained our concept and mission, she came fully on board; she generously did a benefit for NPT in April and recently made a PSA with our Peter — Jaden Bonfietti-Csvihinka — to help promote the show.” Jaden is a rising sophomore at Foran High School in Milford.
Borrowing director John Doyle’s concept from the Company revival, the cast members of Peter Pan — Reimagined will also play instruments in the musical numbers.
Grammy and Emmy Award-winning musical director, arranger, conductor and composer Paul Bogaev of Weston is the musical director for this show — and portray Captain Hook. “It is fun to do both musical and acting,” he said. “Hook is a larger than life part, a lot of fun where you can chew the scenery a bit and reinterpret the role; I’m playing him as a bit of a televangelist…When not acting, I will conduct and play — we have a great group of pit band pirates.
The cast and crew include some 35-40 people from throughout Fairfield County, 20 of them children and eight college interns. The cast rehearses and takes classes in acting, stage fighting and puppetry for three weeks at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Weston, preparing for three performances, at 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26, and at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27.
Each performance is preceded by an hourlong Prologue Bazaar, which Huffman describes as an “indoor fair” of sorts with children (and children at heart) encouraged to dress in their favorite Pirate or Pixie outfit. There will also be a raffle for two tickets to Hamilton.
The FTC Warehouse is at 70 Sanford Street, Fairfield. Tickets are $18 for children, $35 for adults; plus $50 VIP tickets. For more information, visit nptheatre.org or fairfieldtheatre.org or call 203-319-1404.
First published in Arts & Leisure, Aug. 10.