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Muse Machine’s Peter Pan a smash

Just “Think Lovely Thoughts” and you can fly.  Peter Pan has told that to generations of young and old.  Generations of young and old have believed him.

We forget this basic truth until we are reminded by seeing the imp save his world and teach us these irrefutable lessons.  A dose of Peter Pan on stage is medicine for the soul.  A dose of Peter Pan on stage when done by the inspired youth of Dayton’s Muse Machine is medicine for the entire world.

The long weekend of January 9-13 was a marathon of joy for hundreds of our “Muse Kids.”  The genius devotion of Nat Horne, David Düsing, Douglas Merk and their staff created a living, breathing and exploding organism of pure joy – the annual Muse Musical.

Year after year, the six sold-out performances delight audiences and performers alike.  Staging Peter Pan is like staging The Sound of Music sing along.  Everyone in the audience knows every song and every nuance.  Nevertheless, the electricity of the Muse Kids added this musical to the list of “that was the best one yet” Muse productions.

What made this Peter Pan so spectacular? The basics were, of course, all there. There was a marvelously mutable set, colorful costumes, and real live music provided by the highly professional student orchestra under David Düsing’s baton. There were Muse kids magically flying all over the stage.

The special difference was what has always made that special difference.  It is the marvelous effervescence of passionately committed young persons given another golden opportunity.  They are able to take part in a magnificent group effort.  All the dynamics are focused on that vital force.  

Cleverly, the casting was done in groups.  The “Lost boys” in Never-Never land were young boys.  Their delightful impishness made the plot fantasies almost seem real.  The next age group – the Indians – were tweens.  The deliciously evil pirates were the high schoolers brimming with beautiful young men and women.  

They all had elaborate dance numbers and plenty of opportunities to feign terror and delight. And they did so wonderfully.

Then there were the featured roles.  As Peter, Alexandra Finke recreated her triumph of last season when she was the irrepressible Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie.  She sang and danced, most of the dancing in mid-air, like a seasoned musical comedy star.  She joined other musical comedy stars.  As the menacing Captain Hook, Max Monnig had the audience whispering – “Is he a New York import?”  His comic timing and delivery all belie his age but not his talent.  

As Tiger Lily, Oakwood’s Jasmine Al-Masri captivated the audience.  Tommy Skelton, in his Muse debut, made Hook’s bumbling assistant Smee become the Abbot to Costello of the golden comic past. The Darling family were just that – completely darling. In their Muse debuts, Micah Trout and Oakwoodite Rollie Fisk soared effortlessly over the stage.  As Wendy Darling, Charity Farrell had the face of innocence and the voice of an angel.  

Every role was sung, danced and acted delightfully. Bryan Burckle had to become both a dog and a crocodile.  No problem.

There was one example of miscasting. Second grader Jonny Farrow was the youngest “Lost Boy.”  This kid, with his shining personality, will never be lost.

Dayton Theatre Guild

The rest of the post Peter Pan weekend was spent with two plays. Dayton Theatre Guild mounted Israel Horovitz’ Park Your Car in Harvard Yard.  Directed by Sarah Gomes it featured two veteran actors Richard Young and Debra Kent as the characters locked in their separate and conjoined struggles with life.  

I found that the two acts were quite different in feeling.  As the aging teacher, Young would erupt in frustrating histrionics and Kent, as the beleaguered housekeeper would retreat into her shell.  

The second act left the shouting on the doorstep and the characters developed and resolved the play’s agon very successfully.  It is a pretty good play performed by very good actors.

Dayton Playhouse

Dayton Playhouse presented the zany comedy Noises Off.  Somehow, I have seen this continuation of a Three Stooges farce three times.  I resolve never to see it again!  

I described, several seasons ago, the Human Race’s Noises Off as terribly funny.  Yes, funny, but terrible. Again, very good actors, well directed, playing on a smashing set, were all stricken with an incurable disease – finding themselves in a very badly conceived play.

Youth composition contest taking entries

The deadline is approaching for Heidelberg College’s musical composition contest, a new feature in the upcoming New Music Festival that will celebrate its 20th anniversary in April.

Young composers between the ages of 16 and 22 who currently reside in Ohio are invited to submit original new works written for piano by Feb. 15 to be considered for the competition. The winning composition will be performed as part of the New Music Festival April 11-13. The winning composer will receive an honorarium of $200.

Interested participants should submit pieces between three and five minutes in length, which can be for solo piano, piano four-hand or two pianos. CD recordings are not required for participation, but are strongly encouraged. Electronic or facsimile submissions will not be considered. Clear and legible scores should be postmarked by the deadline.

For the complete list of rules and submission forms, visit or call the Department of Music at (419) 448-2073.

Photography exhibit at UD through March 20

For nearly four years, Dayton resident Adam Alonzo has taken photographs daily and placed five pictures per day on his  Web site.  The exhibition “Persistence of Vision” presents many of the best images from the past year, including nature and city scenes, athletes and performers, portraits and candids. This free exhibit is on display Feb. 4 through March 20 at the University of Dayton Roesch Library Gallery, and can  be seen during regular library hours.  A reception will take place Thursday, Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m.  The University is located at 300 College Park in Dayton.   For more information, call (937) 229-4221 or visit:

Romeo & Juliet at Loft Theatre

The love story of the ages is coming to Dayton, spreading forth romance in time for Valentine’s - also spreading forth street fights and mayhem, but there’s not a holiday for that. Preview night for Romeo and Juliet at The Loft Theatre at 126 North Main Street in Dayton is Jan. 31. Official opening night is Feb. 1, with performances Tuesday through Sunday through Feb. 17.

Tickets are available via  or by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or (888) 228-3630.

REACH exhibit opens at DVAC

The Dayton Visual Arts Center will present a thought-provoking exhibition of documentary photographs in the NCR Gallery at DVAC, located at 118 N. Jefferson St. from Feb. 4 to March 8. Growing Seasons: Gary Harwood, features 48 photographs accompanied by a bilingual Spanish/English narrative by David Hassler.

Gallery 510 set to open in Oregon District

Nationally recognized local artist Loretta Puncer has opened Gallery 510 at 510 East Fifth Street in the emerging Oregon Arts District, with her sister, Rosemary Baumann, who is Gallery Director and an interior designer from Cincinnati.  The Grand Opening is Friday, Feb. 1, 5-10 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 2, 3-8 p.m. Puncer views the Oregon District as the emerging art center for Dayton. “The street-level energy and traffic is very exciting and attractive,” she said.  She is also anxious to hold some of her art instruction classes at Gallery 510.  “My students will have an opportunity to work in a real studio and gallery setting, which is important for any artist’s development.”

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January 29, 2008
Volume 17, No. 5

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