The Schoolhouse Arts Center in Standish is pulling out all the stops with “Peter Pan,” a production featuring the airborne children of Neverland as they sail from stage left to stage right starting July 6.

For 14 shows, audiences will be treated to the imaginative world of J.M. Barrie, the novelist and playwright who created Peter Pan.

“The costumes are incredible, the set is amazing, and the flying is thrilling to watch,” said Paul Stickney, musical director and the president of the Schoolhouse Arts Center.

More than 100 children auditioned for the play since March, and with more than 50 children cast, including many parents participating as extras or “flyers” (those who hoist the children up in the air via ropes and harnesses), Stickney said the play offers children and their family members “as many onstage opportunities as possible.”

There are two Pans cast in the play: Chris Albanese, 15, from Gorham, and Adam Mosey, 14, from Hollis. The shows are split between them, giving each child an opportunity to show their talents.

Albanese said she is excited about playing Pan, who will frequently take flight throughout the play. “I’m looking forward to getting people’s reaction to the flying…it’s awesome!” she said.

Mosey agrees, pointing out that for a local play, “Peter Pan” has the many creative theatrical tricks of a full-scale, professional production. “You’re not going to see this in other plays,” he said.

Both Albanese and Mosey enthusiastically said that they want to pursue careers in theatre. In fact, Stickney said many of the children participating in this play are interested in professional theatre.

“These kids have taken music lessons, dance lessons and acting lessons… they’re very dedicated. The Schoolhouse is a great educational program for children that fosters their enthusiasm for the arts,” he said.

The Schoolhouse Arts Center hired ZFX Flying Illusions Inc., a professional production company that has lent its expertise to plays like “Wicked” and “Beauty and the Beast” to help create the illusion of onstage flight for this play. According to Stickney, the rigging system, which allows the children to be hoisted above the stage and flown by a pulley system, cost about $6,700.

“This has been a giant step for us to make Peter fly,” he said, adding that the stage was greatly altered to make room for the flying mechanism.

To get the money for the production, Stickney said that the Schoolhouse sold flower bulbs, held yard sales, cashed in bottles and cans and will put on two additional “dedicational” shows to cover the cost.

The musical accompaniment includes Kevin Smith on keys, flautist Audra Hatch, Terry Paulson on percussion and Lynn Sa and her daughter Nadine on bass and clarinet.

There are also four, full-time costume designers for this production.

Director Michael Hjort said the children in the play are great kids, who are enthusiastic about every aspect of the production.

“It’s wonderful to see these teenagers work… they have no problem picking up a broom if you ask them to,” Hjort said.

Hjort said that with the flying production, music accompaniment and the number of people cast-130 in all-“Peter Pan” is becoming one of the most ambitious plays in Schoolhouse’s history.

“We decided that since we were going to do it, we had to do it right. The audience is going to be treated to magic… it’s the best choreography I’ve seen.”

Aside from the large number of reservations already made, Stickney said the reason he predicts a large turnout for the show is the play itself.

“The essence of the show is that Pan never grows up, allowing us to remember our innocence. It’s a very sweet show,” he said.

Tickets are available at the Schoolhouse Arts Center box office, but Education Director Terri Plummer said that tickets are going fast and recommends to those interested in seeing the show to reserve their tickets ahead of time by calling 642-3743.

Flight practice for young actors in the upcoming play, Peter Pan, starting on July 6. There are more than 50 children cast in the play, some of whom will actually be hoisted and flown around stage.


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