Kiddies' night at the Warner: Flouncing down the aisles in pink dresses, shawls and little white sandals, sporting Polo T-shirts and white trousers, the kids come to pay homage to the boy in the little green suit. Peter Pan is in town.
The adults in the audience seem to prefer Captain Hook.
In the story of the little lost boys in Neverland, the loud and brash Peter Pan is played by Karyn Cole, who was Sandy Duncan's understudy on Broadway. This is her debut in the role, as Duncan never missed a performance. Not only does Cole leap tall buildings, she can do cartwheels with a single hand. And that's without the guy wires.
The big excitement, of course, is that Peter Pan can fly. He swings through the nursery window from a skyfull of stars, inspiring awe in little children and fear for his safety in adults. There he finds Wendy, played by Ann Marie Lee, who seems a little old to be sleeping there, and brothers John and Michael, whom he spirits away to his version of Fantasy Island.
Without the flying, the first act of the musical would be a loss. It moves slowly, and the actors shout back and forth at each other. Every gesture is wide-eyed and slack- jawed. The staid setting of the nursery exacerbates the effect.
Tinkerbell is a more-than-welcome presence. The fairy is a pinwheel of red light that sings "Twinkle-tinkle-blink-blink" and goes "Blaaat" when mad.
The pace does pick up when the pirate band terrorizes the lost boys, and the Indians get involved, dancing to beat the band. The familiar songs ("I Won't Grow Up", "I Gotta Crow", "I'm Flying") are still good ones, the pirates are funny, and good triumphs over evil.
Speaking of evil -- as in glee -- when he appears on stage, the audience hisses long at Captain Hook (Byron Webster, who also plays the kids' dad). It's a delight when Hook then delivers his line tinged with pique: "How still the night is . . ."
Though the play has been performed since 1904, the flying gimmick still works for some. But you have to be very young to believe. During an intermission, two girls who looked to be 10 compared notes on it: "Did you see the string?" Smile, "Yeah." Younger and more credulous, a four-year-old called up to her dad who stood on the steps to the mezzanine: "Now think lovely thoughts!" "I don't have any lovely thoughts," he said, "that's the trouble."
This is really just one for the kids. PETER PAN -- At the Warner Theater through August 29.