Something to Crow About

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Lynne Heffley is a Times staff writer

The timeless, cross-generational appeal of James M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan,” with its poignant theme of lost childhood, has been proved in many incarnations, from the 1904 stage play and the 1950 Jean Arthur production to the most-performed 1954 Mary Martin version and the animated Disney film.

Composer-conductor Donald Fraser, creator of the clever albums “Heigh-Ho! Mozart” and “Bibbidi, Bobbidi Bach,” has added to the Barrie repertoire with a gorgeous new recording, “An Awfully Big Adventure, the Best of Peter Pan, 1904-1996.”

This ambitious work, three years in the making, is no rehash of familiar songs but a distinctive, stand-alone classical treatment in which Fraser has created thematically connected orchestral and choral arrangements of original songs from past productions.


Using a full palette of emotional colors, the nuanced music--performed by flutist Eugenia Zukerman, pianist Carole Rosenberger, violinist Nai-Yuan Hu, the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, Voices of Ascension and others--and charming narration by British child actor Nicholas Klein draw the imagination deep into Barrie’s Neverland.

Well-written liner notes by Fraser, Rosenberger and Al Lutz chronicle the action, the music and the musical history of each selection.

The symphonic “I’m Flying” lilts and soars; a cocky “I Won’t Grow Up” gives way to the piercingly beautiful “When I Went Home”--the “lost song” cut from the 1954 production, in which Peter tells Wendy and her brothers how his own mother forgot him because he stayed away too long.

Throughout, the “voices” of Peter, Tinkerbell and Wendy are heard in the violin, flute and cello, respectively. In the hymn-like “Your Mother and Mine,” based on the Sammy Fain-Sammy Cahn Disney movie song, vocal harmonies are threaded by Wendy’s cello; in “The Arrival of Wendy,” from 1904, the gentle cello is heard again as the Lost Boys build Wendy’s house, constructing musical layers on top of a sturdy bass--the house’s foundation.

Fraser’s own compositions--a dreamy “Mermaid’s Lagoon” and a soft piano solo, “Nocturne”--are seamlessly woven into the collection.

The deeply moving finale, 1954’s “Distant Melody,” evokes the wistfulness that is this lovely work’s interweaving theme.*



“An Awfully Big Adventure, the Best of Peter Pan, 1904-1996,” Delos International. CD, $15.98; audiocassette (available after Oct. 24), $10.98.