'Peter Pan' takes flight at Colonial in Pittsfield

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PITTSFIELD -- Up near the rafters of the Colonial Theatre, Charles Kerzner called out a rooster's crow that reverberated throughout the space before he flew through the air and down to the stage, where the spotlight found him.

For the 12-year-old Sheffield boy, flying -- with the aid of a sophisticated rigging system -- comes with the territory in Berkshire Theatre Group's latest production, "Peter Pan."

"It's kind of like going on a roller coaster," said Charles, who plays Peter Pan.

"Peter Pan" marks the first time actors will perform flying stunts at the Colonial, courtesy of Hall Associates Flying Effects, one of the premier companies in the industry specializing in theatrical flight for shows like "Peter Pan," "Wizard of Oz," and "Beauty and the Beast."

Berkshire Theatre Group's community production of "Peter Pan" opened Thursday. In the works since January, the performance features a cast of 103 -- 93 of whom are students from 32 schools throughout Berkshire County. "Peter Pan" will be performed 11 times between now and Aug. 18.

John Moore, a "flying director" with Hall Associates, credited BTG's production crew for making his job easy.

"What they've mastered in a matter of days ordinarily takes a couple of weeks to learn," he said.

Pendulum and fixed-track flying systems will be used in the performance, which operate by a combination of wires, pulleys and counterweights.

Pittsfield resident Emma Foley, 13, who plays Wendy, and the other youth actors in the show took to Jiminy Peak's Aerial Adventure Park weeks ago to prepare for their roles, according to "Peter Pan" director Travis Daly.

"It's amazing," Emma said. "Ninety percent of people do not get to do this."

Mark Gionfriddo, who's directing music for the show, called the young actors "fearless."

"They really are. You couldn't pay me enough money to do what they're doing," Gionfriddo said.

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Those involved say there's much else to anticipate about the show.

Daly described fight scenes with 50 people on stage at once, meticulously practiced musical numbers like "Never Never Land" and "I'm Flying," and beautiful sets.

In prior years, Daly directed "The Wizard of Oz," "Annie," "Hansel & Gretel's Grimm Tale" and more for BTG.

"This is a talented bunch," Daly said. "To see some of these kids who were extras three or four years ago now star is really special."

Adults, such as Ralph Petillo, in the roles of Mr. Darling and Captain Hook, also star in the play.

Charles said he didn't expect to land the title role, he said. Months ago, he sang "I Won't Grow Up" at an audition and kept his fingers crossed. It worked.

" ‘Woah' was the first thing I thought. ‘This is awesome,' " Charles said.

Neither did Emma expect to land in the production. She half-jokingly described the competition between her and her peers in the local youth acting scene as "cutthroat."

Emma, a player in BTG productions since 2009, considers herself lucky to be involved.

"This is probably going to be one of the best shows we've put on -- ever," she said.

Rehearsals began in late July, Daly said, and picked up in intensity in the last two weeks. The practice of specific scenes was followed by a run-through of the play in its entirety during a rehearsal The Eagle sat in on Tuesday.

"Adapt, stay in character, keep it moving and give it all the energy you can," Daly told a backstage filled with roughly 100 people prior to the trial run. "Put it all on stage."

If you go ...

What: Berkshire Theatre Group's production of "Peter Pan" at the Colonial Theatre, 111 South St., Pittsfield. Proceeds benefit BTG PLAYS!, the company's year-round educational program.

When: 7 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; 7 p.m. Monday; 7 p.m. Thursday; 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18.

Tickets: From $15 to $30, available at the box office or (413) 997-4444 or berkshiretheatregroup.org.

To reach Phil Demers:
pdemers@berkshireeagle.com
or (413) 464-1527.
On Twitter: @BE_PhilD


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