Needing Neverland………………. Peter & I: The New Musical

Posted on: October 8th, 2011 by Patrick Fromuth 3 Comments


“You’re constantly searching the sky

and you cry out for someone to teach you to fly”

Tink. Hook. Wendy. Pan… Neverland! Icons of childhood, innocence, and the dream to stay forever young – forsaking age, wisdom, and time. There have been many adaptations of Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie’s classic tale. Stages, Screens, and now e-Books all over the world have been enthralled with the adventures of Peter Pan. But what lies between the lines? Who is this boy that defiantly refuses to conform to the norm?  Where did he come from? And more importantly, why does Peter need Neverland… for Salvation or Escape?

Who better to ask than Peter Pan, himself.

Peter Pan, also known to his Lost Boys as Chris Dwan, is a recent graduate of Syracuse University and has been involved with the new musical PETER & I from the beginning. There have been 4 readings 3 in NYC and 1 in Syracuse. Dwan has been in every one including the star studded reading featuring Julia Murney, Jack Noseworthy, Lucas Steele, Constantine Rousouli, and Emily Padgett. Leaving newbie, Dwan, the only lead yet to be on Broadway. It doesn’t seem to phase him though. It is pretty clear he’ll get his due soon enough. I had a chance to chat with the charming Chris Dwan as he prepared for the upcoming preview of the show.

FP:  So I have to ask…what is it like working with Julia Murney?

Dwan: JULIA. MURNEY. Performance ready in 10 MINUTES. No Joke. Her musicality is just UNREAL. The things she can do with a song. Verrrrry soft lips too…I like. She is a class act.

So how did you get started on this project?

Well, one of my professors, Marie Kemp brought in writers Matte O’Brien and Matt Vinson to workshop their new musical at SU a little over 2 years ago. At Syracuse I played James Barrie – A kid at heart and author of Peter and Wendy(the children’s novel). Then in January I had the opportunity to be on the recording of PETER & I as Rupert Buxton – a well liked and outgoing student at Oxford University. Then the Araca Broadway production company breathed new life in the show by accepting it for their new initiative for cultivating upcoming producers. The Araca Project is an intensive internship, if you will, culminating in a two week production in NYC. That’s where I got to play the iconic Peter Pan- the boy who never grew up.

Three different roles in one project? Quite versatile Mr. Dwan. Atta Boi. Which character did you most enjoy playing?

“Peter Pan- hands down.”  He is most like me, a child. For example: my favorite food is Kraft Mac and Cheese and Apple Juice (and whenever I eat it I must take a nap IMMEDIATELY following) and my room is always a mess. His character also has a great arc throughout the show. The plot really sheds a new light on the story of Peter and Wendy, it’s more real – challenging the fairytale we all know so well.

How did you prepare for such an iconic role?

My method is – PLAY PLAY PLAY! What I’ve loved most about this whole process is watching everyone work and grow together: how they get from point A to point B, learning music, or belting face (watching Julia Murney- end all be all) it all affects how I prepare.  So, I really get to learn from everyone I’ve worked with, and the actor who played Peter before me is no exception. I think my take on the role is really different. Of course I borrowed moments I loved and made other moments my own. I guess what it comes down to is that I couldn’t ignore the Peter everyone knows and loves; however, the writing really grounds the character so I’m able to make my own choices on why Peter chooses Neverland over Wendy.

“Never say goodbye, because goodbye means going away

and going away means forgetting”

Is that the hardest part of the role for you? Picking Neverland over Wendy?

With out a doubt. I don’t know if I could do it. Just look at the actress playing her, Emily Padgett. She is sensational: stunning, never marks, always belting for the sky. I mean… if Wendy was half as talented as Emily Padgett, there would be NO WAY Peter Pan could say no!…unless he was gay. hmmm… In the show I do wear little green rugby shorts, a mini tank top, combat boots, feathers and A LOT of Glitter…Maybe Peter IS gay?!

Funny, Dwan. Though, speaking of which, this show explores J. M. Barrie’s inspiration for Peter Pan and the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up: Micheal Llewelyn Davies and his gay lover. Right? 

Yes, One of the interlaced story lines follows Michael and his lover Rupert Buxton during their time at Oxford. They meet and fall in love; however, because it’s the early 1920s they find escape and solace in the bottom of a still pond on campus with their hands bound together just short of Michael’s 21st birthday. Terrible, yet in a different light, tragically romantic.

“Beat me, Burn me, Bleed me. I don’t care.

Tear me up or tear me down but need me there.” 

This show seems like it will resonate with the gay and ally community. But why now? Why is this adaptation important for a contemporary audience?

Not an easy question, Fromuth…I believe the show couldn’t come at a more opportune time considering all of the recent attention to gay suicide, bullying, DOMA, and the repeal of DADT in the media. It’s not easy finding shows these days that are current, and we have one that does it through a classic lens. As a result, creatively, PETER & I will really stand out compared to a lot of other new shows. Matt’s moving score is full of power and dynamic harmonies that will take your breath away; paired with Matte’s passionate lyrics and book, allows each member of the six person cast to live the message of the piece. You will find yourself in this show…. All you have to do is show up.

October 6th-16th

The American Theatre of Actors

54th between 8th and 9th

Tickets $18 a Pop 

Peter & I stars Aynsley Bubbico (TV’s GREEK, How I Met Your Mother, Jersey Shoresical), Chris Dwan, Ben Hart (Avenue Q), Geoffrey Kidwell, Emily Padgett (Rock of Ages, Grease), and Jared Zirilli (Wicked). Book and lyrics for Peter & I were written by Matte O’Brien who will also direct the show. Music was composed by Matt Vinson. Amanda Morton (16 Days) is the Musical Director for the piece.

  • AmyVictoria

    way to represent SU DRAMA Chris! we are all so proud of you more than you could imagine! now kick some ass!

  • Rgullie

    Saw the show Friday. It was magical.

  • Chris Dwane

    I was doing a “passing the time” search of my name (Chris Dwane) and found this article. I used to do a fair amount of acting myself (high school, college, and community theatre), and found it really amusing that this Chris Dwan’s (sans “e”) favorite food is Kraft Mac and Cheese. Without exaggeration I have been eating mac and cheese for 80% of my meals in the past 3-4 months. Just found that amusing :0)