Review: ‘Tinker Bell’ Sparkles at First Stage

A whimsical point-of-view shift on a favorite childhood classic.

First Stage, Milwaukee’s premier children’s theater, brings Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie’s beloved characters to the stage in Tinker Bell, a timeless retelling of a story of friendship, adventure and never wanting to grow up.

Directed by Jeff Frank and told from plucky fairy Tinker Bell’s point of view, the production, presented at the Todd Wehr Theater in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts (929 E. Water St.) through June 2, is great fun for all ages.

The First Stage actors gave a memorable, heartfelt and energetic performance Sunday afternoon. The skilled cast included several adult actors, including Ryan Schaback as the foppish, deliciously devilish pirate, Captain Hook, and Chris Klopatek (who adopted a very believable Cockney English accent) as Hook’s bumbling but likable right-hand man, Mr. Smee.

Chris Klopatek (far left), Meguire Hennes (center) and cast; photo by Paul Ruffolo

Meguire Hennes as Tinker Bell, the bratty but loyal fairy seeking a friend, and Anna Fitzsimmons as the spirited and headstrong Peter were among the play’s stellar performances. Elisheva Scheuer was well cast as the caring, maternal Wendy, who watched over her younger brothers John (Carson Pressley), Michael (Jack Cooney) and the nine ragtag Lost Boys.

Running at 90 minutes including an intermission, Tinker Bell contains plenty of action scenes with sword-fighting (a credit to choreographer Christopher Elst; the cast used genuine swords) and physical comedy, carried out by Shaback, Kopatek, and the show’s pirates.

A number of puppets, notably, two ducks and a near-life-sized crocodile that were walked on strings by cast members added a nostalgic, whimsical touch to the production.

Chicago-based designer Theresa Ham paid homage to Barrie’s original story and the 1950s Disney Peter Pan cartoon adaptation with her costumes — a green tulle outfit with wings for Tinkerbell; a rich red coat, black heeled shoes and stockings for Hook; white smocks, vests and brown trousers for the Lost Boys.

Ryan Schabach and cast; photo by Paul Ruffolo

Scenic designer Sara Hunt-Frank helped bring the island of Neverland to life with her wooden structures, reminiscent of tree houses, and props like polka-dotted and floral umbrellas to mimic mushrooms and flowers.

Lighting designer Jason Fassl and sound designer Erin Paige effectively used green balls of light and ethereal bells to indicate the presence of Tinker Bell, as only a select few can see the fairy in the flesh — or understand her language.

Go See It: Tinker Bell at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, through June 2