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Elkader production casts Prairie performers for Peter Pan

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By Steve Van Kooten

 

“Why can’t you fly now, mother?” Jane asked her mother, Wendy.

“Because I am grown up, dearest,” her mother said. “When people grow up they forget the way.”

The conversation, in chapter 17 of J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan,” is one of several moments near the end of the story where Peter, Wendy and the other children who shared adventures in Neverland grow apart. As the children aged, they forgot about Peter, who remained in another world where fairies and pirates roamed. By the end of the book, Wendy has grown old and it’s her daughter, then grand-daughter embroiled in Peter’s ever-continuing exploits.

“For me, the major theme of “Peter Pan” is to allow your inner-child to shine, even if only for a little bit,” Perry Leffler said. “Yes, everyone will have to grow up and learn about solemn things, but you can always find ways to have fun and enjoy life.”

Leffler, a Prairie du Chien resident, was cast to play Peter in the Elkader Opera House Players’ production of Peter Pan, premiering on Oct. 6 at the Elkader Opera House. In her second year as the K-12 Music Teacher at Wauzeka-Steuben School District, Leffler grew up in music; however, she only had marginal experience in theater in her formative years. “I attended a performing arts school in Jackson, MS. I was in the music department, so I never participated in theater shows since that was only for the theater department.”

At Millspaps College Leffler studied music performance, education and psychology, but the school had not run musicals in years. In her senior year, the college brought back musicals to their stage and Leffler played the lead role in “Violet.”

“I fell in love with the theater stage,” Leffler said. “It totally changed my perspective of performing—for the first time, I thoroughly enjoyed being on the stage performing alone in front of an audience.”

Leffler’s work with children has helped inform her performance and build her version of Peter. From an adult’s perspective, many of Peter’s actions don’t make sense, but when she looks at it from her students’ view, the character’s inner-workings fall into place. “Why would anyone choose to spin around on the floor and with their own shadow? Only a child can truly know.”

Cheri Moser, the production’s director, stated Leffler was one of more than 80 that auditioned for the play in May. “The second she opened her mouth to sing, I knew she would make a great Peter.” Moser continued to say Leffler has captivated the cast with her singing.

Along with Leffler, Moser noted other PdC members in the cast and crew: Cary Kann, part of the set design team and stage performer, and Mary Beth Specht, Lead Costume Designer and stage performer.

Moser’s life has been intertwined with the Elkader Opera House. In 1992, when she was in third grade, she had a role in a production of “Annie” with her father and sister. She met her husband, Jonathon, on the Opera House stage. “Peter Pan” will be her fortieth show with the Opera House Players and the fourteenth musical she’s directed. The story holds a significant place for her too: it was the first show she saw at the Elkader Opera House, back in 1989.

“‘Peter Pan’ is all about having grand adventures. He says all you have to do to fly is ‘think lovely, wonderful thoughts,’” Moser said. “When audiences come to see ‘Peter Pan,’ we are welcoming them to Neverland. We are inviting them to fly, to believe, to let their imagination soar, and to leave their worries and doubts firmly on the ground.”

“I am honored that I get to play the lead role in ‘Peter Pan,’ and I am so lucky to be performing alongside such an incredible group of people,” Leffler said.

The Opera House Players production of “Peter Pan” will run Oct. 6-7, 13-14 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 8, 12, and 15 at 2 p.m. at the Elkader Opera House located at 207 N. Main St. Elkader, IA 52043. Tickets are $13 adults and $8 for students (K-12) when purchased in advance, $15 for adults and $10 for students at the door.

Tickets can be purchased online at operahouse.booktix.com or by phone at 563.873.2378, at tickets@icsbbs.com, and in-person at the Elkader Floral Shop.

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