The action-packed, whimsical nostalgia of “the boy who wouldn’t grow up” is coming to the Lakeland stage on September 29 at Branscomb Memorial Auditorium. The audience will steal away to Neverland in a production of Peter Pan by the Florida Dance Theatre in their first full-length collaboration with The Imperial Symphony Orchestra.
Peter Pan will kick off the monumental 25th season for Florida Dance Theatre, according to Resident Choreographer Stefan Dolbashian, and the lead up to this season has been with tremendous support from the community. “Having a very strong community that is supportive of the arts like Lakeland, is really one of the things that have kept us around for so long,” he said.
A bedtime story essential in many a childhood, Peter Pan is a strong opening performance for the theatre. “It’s such a great show! Being able to do something original with the Imperial Symphony is really fantastic for us,” said Dolbashian, expressing that they wanted a show that would mean something to every audience member, young and old. “Peter Pan is such a staple story that has been involved in everyone’s lives for so long that there is something for everyone in it.”
Dolbashian added, “Bringing back that inner child for everyone is something really important, it’s a great way to start off the year. Being able to expose so many kids to dance, and to art, and to live music in such a great venue, I think is going to be a phenomenal thing for Lakeland.”
The cast looks to bring all the magic Peter Pan has to offer with Denton Gay as Peter Pan, Sarah Walston as Wendy, Devin Hamilton as John, Drew Travis Robinson as Michael, and kids from the community playing Lost Boys and Indians. Having worked with this group of dancers for a while, Dolbashian was confident in choosing the right personality for each character.
“Our Tinker Bell, of course, required a lot of sass, a lot of personality, a lot of spunk so we have the perfect dancer for that,” he said of Molly Ahler.
In a twist from the original story, Dolbashian thought outside the box with the story’s infamous villain. “I wanted to do a really powerful, female Captain Hook,” he said. Jordan Raybon will be filling that role with Dolbashian expressing, “She’s bringing a lot of strength to the character and I’m really excited for her to hit the stage with this.”
To keep the story’s enchanting feeling the choreographer said, “I’m trying to keep as much variety in the choreography as is in the story – having major action-packed fighting scenes with swordplay, and crazy jumps, and adding all kinds of comedy with the lost boys and the pirates. It’s been fun to have this very comedic experience with all this action and being able to create the magic with the flying in the show.”
With a professional rigging team out of Orlando assisting Florida Dance Theatre in taking flight, Dolbashian says that dancers flying through the air, accompanied by live music will be an “awe-inspiring” experience for the audience.
Speaking of the audible thrill the ISO will bring to the show, the Florida Dance Theatre is ecstatic to work with them on this full-length production. “I’m really excited to do something full scale with them and hope that it’s the first of many to come,” said Dolbashian.
This epic marriage of local arts with live music and original choreography is something that Amy Wiggins, Executive Director of the ISO, and Mark Thielen, Music Director and Conductor of the ISO are also excited to take on.
“From my perspective, there’s really not a better first production for us [to perform together]. Peter Pan is such a timeless story, it’s something everyone can relate to. It really relates the story of arts and culture in general to the audience. It’s a story about imagination and childhood and friendship. For me, it really just connects everything that we’re doing,” said Wiggins. “The other part of that is we have some tremendous arts and culture organizations in Polk County and I think sometimes, it’s easy, even for those of us in those organizations to take that for granted. So, by taking our productions, both the ISO and the Florida Dance Theatre, elevates the product and takes us to another level. My goal for that is that it starts the conversation around the quality and the offerings of the arts and cultural institutions that we do have here in Polk County.”
Thielen added, “We’re always looking for ways to collaborate with the other arts organizations in the community and like Amy said, these are two professional organizations, two great art forms coming together with the symphony orchestra and the dance [theatre].”
The story promises to come alive with the accompaniment of live music. “The way that the sound fills the hall is different, the way that the energy is created from the pit onto the stage out to the audience, it’s a completely different experience all around,” said Wiggins. “The connection between the audience and the art form is so much stronger when it’s live.”
Florida Dance Theatre’s Peter Pan with The Imperial Symphony Orchestra
Saturday, September 29, 2018
7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Branscomb Memorial Auditorium
1085 Johnson Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33803
Peter Pan – Denton Gay
Wendy – Sarah Walston
John – Devin Hamilton
Michael – Drew Travis Robinson
Tinker Bell – Molly Ahler
Captain Hook – Jordan Raybon
Tootles – Michael Holland Jr.
Mr. Darling/Mr. Smee – Stefan Dolbashian
Mrs. Darling/Mermaid/Pirate – Caitlin Hardegree
Tiger Lily – Katrina Ogden
Queen of the Mermaids – Lexie Lucente
Mermaid/Pirate – Sarah Dacy
Mermaid/Pirate – Rebekah Smith
Peter’s Shadow/Pirate – Jermaine Thornton