We were ever so pleased to learn that the Montford Park Players put on free shows in the Hazel Robinson Amphitheater, in North Asheville. Peter Pan was running when we found out, and though we missed the first opportunity to go, we managed to get out to their final performance one Sunday night. We had never been to the park there in Montford, but we knew we were close when we started passing lines of cars parked in every available spot on the streets. We were running a bit late, so I dropped off the girls at what I thought was the nearest entrance and went to find a place to park. I had to go several blocks, and when I returned to the park, I found that I had only gotten them partway in, the amphitheater being much farther away. Every parking lot I passed was full, which meant that we’d probably have a full house.
When I finally reached the amphitheater, I was very impressed with the stage. It was large and well-constructed, with lawn seating spreading out up the hill, enough for an audience of a thousand people, I guessed.
We all settled down in our spot just as things were getting started. The show opened with a dance number, with the lost boys, the natives, the pirates, and the Darlings all dancing to contemporary music while pantomiming key parts of the plot.
When the play began, I was impressed with how well the actors projected their voices, as there was no amplification. They elaborated on the plot slightly, with a hilarious bit involving Mr. Darling trying to get the kids to take their medicine, and eventually putting some of his nasty medicine into Nana’s bowl as a practical joke. Otherwise, they stayed fairly close to the original play.
It was really cool how they handled the part where the kids learn to fly in the nursery. Having no rigging for aerials, they simply brought out some blocks and planks to make see saws, on which the actors stood and were lifted up into the air by cast and crew who stayed low and mostly out of sight. This allowed them to rise up several feet from the ground, and from a distance it made for a pretty effective illusion.
It was a great performance. The actors playing Smee and Wendy were particularly memorable, projecting their voices very well and bringing their characters to life with enthusiastic expression. All the players did a wonderful job, and the show was a great success. I spoke with the actor who played Smee during intermission, and he said it was their best turnout yet, which is a nice way to close out a production.
Even Lila, who I was worried wouldn’t have the attention span for such a long performance, enjoyed the play, following the plot fairly well and barely getting restless. It helped that she knew the story already. At the end of the play, I took her down to the stage so she could get a closer look at the actors, and I got a few pictures of them as they posed for other photographers.
Local theater is such a great thing. I found it remarkable that such a large company of players was able to put on such a well-produced show without charging any money. They did go around during intermission asking for donations, but clearly love of theater is what motivates such a production, far more than financial incentive. This makes it all the sweeter, and I look forward to going to more performances of the Montford Park Players, who put on several productions a year.