“I have a place where dreams are born and time is never planned
It’s not on any chart; You must find it with your heart”
Luckily for the parents of Jeff Richards – and perhaps the boy himself – the 6-year-old has found a new outlet for his desire to fly.
“When he was younger we caught him jumping off his playhouse trying to fly,” said Matt Richards. “He’s fearless.”
Watching Jeff soaring high above the stage at Clyde Moore Auditorium, his joy playing Michael Darling in Redmond High School’s production of “Peter Pan” is immediately evident.
Even though he is the youngest cast member, Jeff shows no worries as he “flys” with fellow cast members in the classic stage play, courtesy of a special effects theatrical company.
The musical features a cast all ages and, in true Pan theatrical tradition, actors of both sexes playing the title character.
The play’s intensive rehearsal schedule, required for both the numerous musical numbers and the stunt flying, has required serious dedication from the Richards family.
”My wife and I take turns being here during rehearsal,” said Matt Richards the week before Pan opened. “Luckily our jobs are working with us to make it possible because (the time demands) are really taking center stage.”
But Jeff, insists his father, is taking it all in stride. “It’s just another day in the life of Jeff,” said Matt, adding that his son is always on the move and keeps busy with many activities; however show business seems to have really captured his interest.
“He’s always singing and dancing,” said Matt, “even before Pan. He and his brother Max put on shows and charge us 25 cents to watch. They even make tickets: 'One Night Only- Max & Jeff’,” he added with a laugh.
Perhaps not the oldest member of the Pan cast and crew, but certainly the most experienced, is Johnny Pickett, now on his 71st “Peter Pan” production.
Pickett works as a flight director for Flying by Foy, a special effects company whose founder worked on the original “Peter Pan” stage production in the early 1950s.
“I have a special affection for 'Pan’,” said Pickett, who “flys” productions as diverse as Broadway tours, theme parks, community theater and television extravaganzas.
“Peter Pan” was the first production the longtime actor and theatrical veteran worked on as a full flight director, in 2003.
“I discover something new in 'Pan’ every time I do it,” said Pickett. Working with amateurs and children can be just as rewarding as working with the big names and experienced professionals, he added.
“It’s a trade-off. Sometimes amateurs put more of their heart into a production – they really want to be there. It’s hard sometimes telling a salty old stagehand what to do.”
The flight directors are commissioned to set up the gear for a flying production, train the stage crew in its use and teach the actors how to use the specials effects safely and for best theatrical effect.
The week before “Pan” opened Pickett coached the high school tech crew on proper flying skills.
“Don’t yank so hard, Pan’s taking off, not being launched,” he cautioned the crew. He reminded them to pay special attention to the play as it unfolded. “It’s about being in the moment, be sensitive with your movements,” Pickett said while the teenagers sweated and groaned, wearing holes in shoes with the constant rope movement.
“Peter Pan” will include all the beloved musical favorites, from “I Won’t Grow Up” to “Never Never Land” and “I Gotta Crow.” There are nightly performances this week and a matinee on Saturday. Una Wagner and Billy Brant share the role of Pan; Daniel Bradley plays both Captain Hook and Mr. Darling and Danielle Williams is Wendy.
May 18-22, 7 p.m.
May 22, 1:30 p.m.
$10 advance, $12 at the door
Tickets RHS main office
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Friday tickets available
at RHS auditorium