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On Stage

Pan the Musical

Revamping a classic

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wendy is no longer a wallflower. In Conrad Askland’s revamped version of J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy, big changes are afoot. And, although audiences will still be introduced to their favorite characters when META Performing Arts presents PAN the Musical starting this week at the Lincoln Theatre, Askland promises a new take on the classic.

Cascadia Weekly: You’ve changed up the original Peter Pan story a bit. What elements did you expand on, and what got cut?
Conrad Askland: I expanded on Wendy’s relationship with her parents, the insights and emotions of the parents, and added a bit of back story to Captain Hook and Peter Pan.

CW: Why?
CA:For me, this makes the story much more compelling and personal. I also cut down some of the Neverland events of the Lost Boys and Pirates that are not central to the story. I believe PAN has all the iconic moments and phrases that an audience would expect from the original story.

CW: Why is this a story you felt the need to tell?
CA: It’s not! In fact, at one point I went to the director and told him that too many elements bothered me in the original Peter and Wendy story, and that I could not in good conscience write it. His reply was: “Well then, write it and make the changes you need to make.” So, I made Wendy’s character more proactive in the adventure, threw in a few twists on iconic scenes, gave a respectful portrayal to the Indians instead of the original racial stereotypes, and am taking many risks with the music and orchestration.

CW: Can you tell me a little more about the music?
CA: The music is all original and is orchestrated for oboe, clarinet, tuba, two keyboards, drums and bass—a nice compact seven-piece group. The music of PAN has a classic sound, yet is very fresh.

CW: What have been the biggest issues in putting the show together?
CA: The biggest challenge is composing the music so a community theater group can perform the songs well. Fortunately, since I’m the composer and arranger, I was able to customize all the songs for the various soloists and groups to exploit their strengths.

CW: When you’re revamping a story that pretty much everyone is familiar with, what do you do to set it apart?
CA: All I can do is go with my gut on story lines, character arcs, twists and music. When I read a story, certain elements will jump out at me. “Hey, that’s just wrong” or, “This would be interesting to go this way.” So my personal mode of operation is just to start working on what jumps out at me.

CW:What Peter Pan character would you most like to have on your side in a fight?
CA:Captain Hook. He’s very cunning and tenacious.

CW: What character would you like to read you a bedtime story?
CA:Smee! PAN the Musical really highlights Smee as the master of ceremonies that instructs and guides the audience along in their quest to help the Lost Boys defeat the pirates.

CW:If Peter Pan ever grew up, what do you think he would’ve done for the rest of his life?
CA:Marketing or sales! He can put a spin on anything, has a short attention span and is always excited about the next adventure.

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