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First Major Revival of Leonard Bernstein’s Peter Pan, Directed by Christopher Alden, Launches Bard SummerScape on June 28

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY: On August 25 this year, Leonard Bernstein would have celebrated his 100th birthday. To honor this centennial, the 2018 Bard SummerScape festival launches with the first major revival of the composer’s Peter Pan. Commissioned from Olivier Award-winning director and Bernstein specialist Christopher Alden, and presented complete in an intimate new chamber arrangement, Bard’s new production is the only one of Bernstein’s theatrical works to be staged in the New York area during the centenary year. Alden’s psychologically gripping treatment reveals the childhood fantasy’s darker side, combining new choreography from Jack Ferver, a specialist “in prickly, playful queer dance theater” (New York Times), with Bernstein’s joyous, shimmering score. By turns whimsical and sinister, the production’s cast is led by “America’s baritone” (Broadway World) William Michals as Captain Hook, “cabaret powerhouse Peter Smith (Time Out New York) as Peter Pan, Erin Markey, whose “comic wildness and voice blast through you like a storm blowing backward” (Time Out New York), as Wendy, and Ferver as Tinker Bell. The new production premieres in 25 performances in the LUMA Theater of the Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, on Bard’s Hudson Valley campus, between June 28 and July 22. Critics are welcome as of July 5, for an official opening on July 6. The production is suitable for audiences aged twelve and above.

Originally an Edwardian play by Scottish dramatist J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan, or, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up owes its status as an enduring children’s classic chiefly to two popular American adaptations, both of which date from the 1950s: the 1953 Disney animation and 1954 Broadway musical, a hit whose regular revivals included a star-studded 2014 telecast. Yet, as is far less well-known, the post-war years yielded an earlier American adaptation too: a Broadway show that opened in 1950 and ran for 321 performances, with music and lyrics by Leonard Bernstein. To accommodate the vocal limitations of its cast, however, the original production featured only five of the composer’s nine songs, and since then there has been just one fully staged revival at which they were performed complete.

In keeping with Bard’s mission of rediscovery, restoring this long-lost score to the canon fills in what the Los Angeles Times has called “the only musical gap in the best documented career in classical music.” Moreover, far from being of historical interest only, Bernstein’s music for Peter Pan has impressed the New York Times as “bewitching, … a black comic pearl” that “poses precocious existential questions in terms of pensive tenderness.” Three of the songs – “Who Am I?”, “Build My House”, and “Dream With Me” – have been incorporated into the American songbook.

To commission its contemporary new staging, Bard turned to two key figures in the Bernstein field. As Vice President of Project Development and Senior Music Editor for the Leonard Bernstein Office, it was Garth Edwin Sunderland who created the first theatrical performing edition of Peter Pan, besides writing new arrangements of A Quiet Place and Trouble in Tahiti and adapting the scores of West Side Story and On The Waterfront for screenings with live performance. For Bard’s intimate take on Peter Pan, Sunderland rescores Bernstein’s music for a band of five musicians, all of whom will appear onstage, fully integrated with the action.

This will be the creation of opera and theater director Christopher Alden, whose original productions have graced the stages of the New York City Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Canadian Opera Company, English National Opera, and Festival d’Aix en Provence, to name just a few. His history with Bernstein’s work includes, most notably, a game-changing take on A Quiet Place, the composer’s sole full-length opera, for New York City Opera. This altered the course of history for the formerly unpopular work, conjuring such “theatrical magic” that the New York Times was moved to exclaim: “If only Bernstein could have been there.”

Taking his cue from Peter Pan’s desire for eternal childhood, Alden situates the story in a dreamy environment reminiscent of an abandoned fairground. Billed as “definitely not your grandparents’ Peter Pan,” his treatment features a young, diverse cast, a dreamlike concept, and a humorous, off-kilter energy that combine to propel the period classic into the 21st century. To keep focus on Bernstein’s exquisite score, the director whittled Barrie’s script down to a fast-paced 90 minutes, producing a chamber Peter Pan in which Wendy Darling has become an only child and all the roles are undertaken by a cast of ten, highlighting the theme of role-play so central to the story’s ethos.

Peter Smith and Erin Markey, who both use “they/them” pronouns, represent the growing community of young trans and nonbinary performers who are gaining increased visibility in the mainstream. Smith recently proved a sensation in the dual roles of Bruce and Caitlyn Jenner in Katdashians! Break the Musical! Off-Broadway; as the New York Times observed, “Peter Smith … ultimately steals the show.” The New Yorker says, “It’s impossible to take your eyes off the performance artist Erin Markey,” another trans star of the New York performance scene, “who matches siren-like self-possession with off-the-wall non-sequitur humor. Imagine Tilda Swinton crossed with Yogi Berra.”

They will be joined by William Michals, of Broadway’s South Pacific and Beauty and the Beast fame, whose “sonorous voice is nothing short of breathtaking” (Broadway World) as Captain Hook, and Rona Figueroa, as seen in Miss Saigon and Les Miserables on Broadway, who lends her dynamic voice and range to Mrs. Darling, Tiger Lily, and the infamous Crocodile. Jack Ferver, “a wonderful actor and storyteller” (New Yorker), will play the fairy Tinker Bell. An ensemble of Bard alums round out the cast: Milo Cramer, of the rising young theater company New Saloon, Catherine Bloom, Jewel Evans, Alec Glass, and Charles Mai.

To realize his vision, Alden joined forces with renowned scenographer Marsha Ginsburg, an Obie Award-winner and two-time Hewes Design Award nominee whose “hip, interesting, and original” (Los Angeles Times) work has graced such venues as the Metropolitan Opera, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Glimmerglass Opera. Her canary yellow Peter Pan set features a working carnival ride from the 1950s, with shark-shaped cars in which cast members “fly” to Never Land.

Costume and lighting design are by Terese Wadden and JAX Messenger respectively. The two recently collaborated on Alden’s radical reimagining of Handel’s Aci, Galatea e Polifemo at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust, as well as on Opera Philadelphia’s world premiere production of The Wake World, winner of the Music Critics Association of North America’s 2018 Best New Opera award. Both artists’ work is familiar from previous SummerScape productions, Wadden having designed the costumes for Oklahoma, and Messenger the lighting for Oresteia, The Wreckers, and The Turandot Project.

Peter Pan’s Music Director is Michael A. Ferrara, a graduate of the Bard College Conservatory of Music’s Master of Music program in orchestral conducting. He will be joined by sound designer Stowe Nelson, who has been recognized with a Drama Desk Award nomination and the NY Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Sound Design.

Leonard Bernstein’s youngest daughter, Nina Bernstein Simmons, said of the production, “I can’t wait to see what Christopher Alden does with this piece. I have a feeling it’s going to be quite surprising. … It should make for a great theater experience.

Major support for Peter Pan is provided by Jeanne Donovan Fisher.

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SummerScape’s theatrical track record is a stellar one, particularly in revelatory new productions of works from the American musical canon. When SummerScape 2015 offered an original staging of Oklahoma! by director Daniel Fish, the New York Times pronounced it a “vibrant, essential excavation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1943 classic.” That production will transfer to St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn for performances beginning September 27.

Click here to download high-resolution photos of Peter Pan.


Theater at Bard SummerScape 2018

Leonard Bernstein’s Peter Pan (new production)
Music and lyrics by Leonard Bernstein
After the play by J. M. Barrie
Adapted and directed by Christopher Alden
Choreography by Jack Ferver
Orchestrations by Garth Edwin Sunderland
Music direction by Michael A. Ferrara
Scenic design by Marsha Ginsberg
Costume design by Terese Wadden
Lighting design by JAX Messenger
Sound design by Stowe Nelson
Production stage management by Chris De Camillis
Casting by Henry Russell Bergstein, CSA

Cast (in alphabetical order):
Tinker Bell: Jack Ferver
Mrs. Darling/Tiger Lily/Croc: Rona Figueroa
Wendy: Erin Markey
Mr. Darling/Captain Hook: William Michals
Peter Pan: Peter Smith

Ensemble: Catherine Bloom, Milo Cramer, Jewel Evans, Alec Glass, and Charles Mai

Tickets start at $25
LUMA Theater, Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts
Open to reviewing press beginning July 5; suitable for audiences aged 12 and up.

June 28 at 7pm
June 29 at 7:30pm
June 30 at 7:30pm
July 1 at 2pm
July 4 at 2pm
July 5 at 7pm
July 6 at 7pm*
July 7 at 2pm
July 7 at 7:30pm
July 8 at 2pm*
July 8 at 7pm
July 11 at 2pm
July 12 at 7pm
July 13 at 7:30pm
July 14 at 2pm
July 14 at 7:30pm
July 15 at 2pm
July 15 at 7pm
July 18 at 2pm
July 19 at 7pm
July 20 at 7:30pm
July 21 at 2pm
July 21 at 7:30pm
July 22 at 2pm
July 22 at 7pm 

SummerScape 2018: other key performance dates by genre

Bard Music Festival, Weekend One: Inventing Russian Music: The Mighty Five (Aug 10–12)
Bard Music Festival, Weekend Two: Rimsky-Korsakov and His Followers (Aug 17–19) 

Anton Rubinstein: The Demon
Sosnoff Theater
July 27* at 8pm
July 29*; August 1, 3* & 5* at 2 pm
Tickets start at $25

Opening Night Reception for Members Friday, July 27
Opera Talk with Leon Botstein Sunday, July 29 at noon

Pam Tanowitz, Kaija Saariaho, Brice Marden: T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets (world premiere of SummerScape commission, featuring Pam Tanowitz Dance, Kathleen Chalfant, and The Knights)

Sosnoff Theater
July 6* & 7 at 8 pm
July 8* at 3 pm
Tickets start at $25

Opening Night Reception for Members Friday, July 6
Post-Performance Conversation Saturday, July 7
Pre-Performance Conversation Sunday, July 8 at 2pm

“Rimsky-Korsakov and the Poetry of Cinema”
Ottaway Film Center
July 26 – Russian Ark (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2002, Russia/Germany/Canada/Finland, 96 minutes)
July 29 – A Night on Bald Mountain (Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker, 1933, France, 8 minutes) and Fantasia (Walt Disney, 1940, USA, 126 minutes)
August 2 – The Devil is a Woman (Josef von Sternberg, 1935, USA, 79 minutes)
August 5 – Kismet (Vincente Minnelli, 1955, USA, 113 minutes)
August 9 – Man of Music (Composer Glinka), (Grigori Aleksandrov, 1952, USSR, 100 minutes)
August 12 – The Cranes are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957, USSR, 97 minutes)
August 16 – Atlantic City (Louis Malle, 1980, Canada/France, 104 minutes)
August 19 – The House of Mirth (Terence Davies, 2000, UK/Germany/USA, 140 minutes)
Tickets: $10

Live Music, Cabaret, Festival Dining, and After Hours salon
Hosted by Mx. Justin Vivian Bond
June 29-August 18
Dates, times, and prices vary

* The Bard SummerScape coach from Manhattan is available for these performances.

Bard SummerScape ticket information

Tickets for all Bard SummerScape events are now on sale. For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or visit

SummerScape opera, theater, and dance performances and most Bard Music Festival programs are held in the Sosnoff Theater or LUMA Theater in Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry and celebrated since its opening as a major architectural landmark in the region. Some chamber programs and other BMF events are in Olin Hall, and the Spiegeltent has its own schedule of events, in addition to serving as a restaurant, café, and bar before and after performances. Film Series screenings are at the Jim Ottaway Jr. Film Center in the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Center.

New York City Round-Trip Coach Transportation:
To make a reservation on the round-trip SummerScape coach provided exclusively to ticket holders for specific performances indicated by * in the listings above, call the box office at 845-758-7900 or select this option when purchasing tickets. The round-trip fare is $40 and reservations are required. The coach departs from behind Lincoln Center, on Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets. Find additional details at:

Full Schedule:
For a complete schedule of SummerScape and Bard Music Festival events (subject to change), follow the links given below. Updates are posted at the festival web site Fisher Center members receive priority access to the best seats in advance, and those who join the Center’s email list receive advance booking opportunities as well as regular news and updates.

Bard SummerScape:

Bard Music Festival:

Tickets and Subscriptions:; or by phone at 845-758-7900. Tickets to all mainstage events start at $25.

Special offers:
Create Your Own Series: save 25% and enjoy maximum flexibility, by choosing four or more events.
SummerScape Mainstage Package: save 30% and guarantee seats for dance, theater, and opera events.
Out-of-Town Package: save up to 23% on mainstage ticket, roundtrip bus from New York City, and three-course meal.
Night Out Package: save up to 15% on mainstage ticket (selected performances only) and three-course meal.

Updates: Bard’s “e-subscribers” get all the news in regular updates. Click here to sign up, or send an e-mail to [email protected].

All programs are subject to change.

The 2018 SummerScape season is made possible in part through the generous support of Jeanne Donovan Fisher, the Martin and Toni Sosnoff Foundation, the Board of The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, the Board of the Bard Music Festival, and Fisher Center members, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

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© 21C Media Group, May 2018

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