Soaring back and forth over the Fullerton High School auditorium stage in her leaf-green Peter Pan costume, Melissa Lyons looked as if she were born to fly.
But on a return swoop, she thudded into a wall of the set and sent a vase on the fireplace mantle crashing to the floor. In the best trouper fashion, however, she continued soaring and singing without missing a beat.
“Do we get to practice this a lot?” she asked, once finally back on the ground.
“Melissa, that was your very first flight with music,” co-director Vicki Schindele answered reassuringly. “You’re probably going to have bruises. But it’s fun, isn’t it?”
And so it went Wednesday during the first full rehearsal of the crucial flying sequences for Fullerton High School’s spring musical, “Peter Pan.” It opens tonight.
With 60 actors, 30 crew members and a production cost of $12,000, it is the school’s most ambitious musical production ever.
Although the school’s fine arts department has received a number of small community donations, in addition to $2,000 in seed money from the school itself (which the department plans to pay back), the hope is that box office receipts will cover the production tab. And Schindele is not too concerned. “In pre-sales, we are already more than halfway home,” she said.
Schindele, who is co-directing with Alberta Strey, said she selected “Peter Pan” as a community outreach “to bring families with their children into the high school to see the magic of live theater, as well as the magic of this particular children’s literature.”
Of course, “flying” is the real magic of “Peter Pan,” not only for audiences but for the young actors.
When Wednesday’s rehearsal started, Lyons--along with other cast members Ariane Bolduc, Brandon Jette and Julie Grinfeld--was looking forward to being harnessed up for her first solo flight. As Schindele noted, “It’s every child’s dream to fly.”
For the characters in “Peter Pan,” flying is a simple matter of thinking “lovely, wonderful thoughts.” For the actors, it’s more of a nuts-and-bolts affair. Actually, make that wires and ropes.
That’s where flying director Robert Fejer of Foy Inventerprises comes in. The company, which is based in Las Vegas, rigs and choreographs the flying sequences for “The Glory of Christmas” and “The Glory of Easter” at the Crystal Cathedral, the L.A. production of “Beauty and the Beast” and hundreds of “Peter Pan” productions around the country each year.
“They bump a little bit in the beginning, but they catch on pretty quick,” said Fejer, who typically spends only three days training the actors and the stage crew members who handle the ropes.
So what’s the secret to gliding gracefully over a stage? “Posture’s important: How to hold yourself so you don’t see the harness bulging out of the back of the costumes,” Fejer answered. But the bottom line: “They have to sell the flying. It’s acting. If they don’t look comfortable, the audience will see the wires.”
Lyons, a 17-year-old senior who plans to major in voice performance in college, said her first solo liftoff had been “kind of scary because I didn’t have control.” But after a couple of flights, it was “a lot more fun,” even though by rehearsal’s end she still was getting used to the discomfort of the harness.
“When you start really swinging (back and forth) it’s like being on a swing set,” she said. “It’s fun. It’s like you’re floating.”
The curtain rises at 7:30 tonight in Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton. General admission is $7. “Peter Pan” will continue Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 1:30 p.m. through April 1. For tickets and information, call (714) 671-1084.