Flying nightly through July 3 at Beef and Boards are (from left) Phebe Taylor as Peter Pan, Kennedy Martin as Wendy, Holland Barnes as Michael and Ethan Gold as John.
OK, I'll admit it, live theater has always been one of my guilty pleasures.
Maybe something rubbed off on me when I sang that "Cowboy Small" solo in the Lindop School kindergarten circus program so long, long ago. Thankfully, long before YouTube videos walked this earth.
Face it, live theater, especially musical theater, can be entertaining, inspiring and intriguing.
But after you've sat through dozens of high school musicals, amateur theater and professional productions, your excitement for some of the musical classics tends to wane.
For instance, if I ever sit through another version of "Oklahoma," I've got a feeling it won't only be the wind that comes sweeping down the plain.
And "The Sound of Music"? I was done with it long before Carrie Underwood undermined that TV special. Climb every octave? Better the "Sounds of Silence" for my ears.
Certainly I've felt pretty much the same about "Peter Pan."
After all, we were all exposed to the 1953 Walt Disney animated version at an early age, weren't we? One of your first family VCR buys, I'd bet. That was enough "Peter Pan," wasn't it?
But then Mary Martin and Cathy Rigby and every little blond this side of the Olsen twins took wing and flew into our living rooms in the lead role. (And why is it the BOY who never grew up is always played by a girl? Could it be that darned flying harness?).
Regardless, the telling of the same tale as the Steven Spielberg film "Hook" -- with Dustin Hoffman in the title role and Robin Williams as his own inimitable Peter Pan -- was quite fun. "Finding Neverland" with Johnny Depp as writer/creator J.M. Barrie? Not so much.
Meanwhile, coming soon to a theater near you is yet another film incarnation of the story, "Pan," featuring some unknown as Peter and Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard.
Geez, Peter Pan even has his own peanut butter for crying out loud. Smooth, crunchy, extra crunchy even.
I haven't been this tired of Pan since that Zamfir guy was trying to peddle his flute albums on TV infomercials.
Yet a funny thing happened on the way to my latest exposure to "Peter Pan," the musical production on stage through July 3 at Beef and Boards in Indianapolis. I got to see it again through a child's eyes.
Admittedly, I wasn't quite as thrilled about going to Saturday night's show as I was excited about the company I was keeping and the two grandsons ("grand guys," as she calls them) accompanying us for the evening.
But that all changed in the blink of an eye.
Before we'd even settled into our second plate from the buffet, there was commotion in the aisle right beside us. A character emerged dressed as Capt. Hook (on stage the role is played with humor and gusto by Jeff Stockberger, whom I believe has been in every Beef and Boards offering this season). The drama here, however, was the fellow disguised as the pirate was proposing to the young lady in the booth right behind us. Shiver me timbers!
Eyes were all focused on him. Little eyes -- wide, little eyes -- were mesmerized. Meanwhile, I bit my tongue, not wanting to spoil the mood by shouting, "Watch out for that hook when you hug him!"
But that dining room aisle scene set the tone for an incredible evening of entertainment and wonder as we wondered who was going to pop up when and where.
Later, Hook was issuing his maniacal demands from an balcony just over my shoulder. And Peter Pan (actress Phebe Taylor) and Tiger Lilly (Sally Scharbrough) sang a duet from a platform two tables in front of us. The musical was using the entire venue and it was magical fun.
My new buddies Kash, 4, and Kole, 3, were fixated on everything around them. Fast forward to the scene where Mother Darling (Suzanne Stark) fears she will never see her children again, and Kash turns to his beloved "Mimi" to poignantly adlib, "I'm heartbroken, Mimi." To which little brother adds, "I'm heartbroken, too."
Me, I'm stunned at the emotion. And shocked at the vocabulary.
At intermission, the excitement takes no time off as our server brings out hot-fudge sundaes and scoops of rainbow sherbet.
In retelling the tale of this night, little Kole excitedly relates, "I saw 'Peter Man' (not Pan) and had rainbow sherbet but it melted, and I drank it!"
He goes on to tell of pirates and Indians and people flying. ... Talk about never wanting to grow up.
So with a new eyeful of appreciation for "Peter Pan," for me it's obvious there's only one thing left to be said ...
"I'll never grow up ... never grow up ... never grow up!"
("Peter Pan" is on stage at Beef and Boards, 9301 Michigan Rd., Indianapolis, through July 3. Ticket information is available at 317-872-9664 or at firstname.lastname@example.org).