DALLAS — Peter Pan may be flying back to Broadway once again, this time in a new musical titled “Fly.” And among its cast is 12-year old Campbell Walker Fields, a seventh grader who attends the Classen School of Advanced Studies.
In this Dallas Theater Center production, Fields is cast as one of the Lost Boys, a band of wisecracking orphans that sets off in search of adventure with their pal Peter Pan. They find plenty of thrills when the scheming Captain Hook and his band of pirates invade Neverland.
“Fly” features a book by Rajiv Joseph, music by Bill Sherman and lyrics by Kirsten Childs and Joseph. Based on the popular novel by James M. Barrie, “Fly” re-examines the familiar story about the boy who refused to grow up but approaches the tale primarily from Wendy's viewpoint. A driving pop/rock score and some spectacular visuals by Anna Louizos give the production a contemporary sensibility.
Despite his young age, Fields is a theater veteran who has appeared as the Artful Dodger in the Lyric Theatre production of “Oliver!” and as JoJo in the University of Oklahoma production of “Seussical.” He's also been cast as Jack in “Into the Woods” and as the Rum Tum Tugger in “Cats,” both Lyric Academy productions.
Fields was one of approximately 100 kids who auditioned for “Fly,” only eight of whom were cast. The company spent four weeks in rehearsals in late May and early June. “Fly” began previews July 2, opened 10 days later and will run through Aug. 18.
Any new musical is a work in progress, which means a cast is subjected to frequent script revisions, new music and changes in choreography. And while the Lost Boys weren't subjected to radical plot changes, these young actors were exposed to the familiar idea that musicals aren't written but rewritten.
“This is a completely new show so there were lots of things that were changed every day,” Fields said recently. “One day, they choreographed a whole new number and then decided not to use it. We ended up going back to the old one. It's also a very complicated technical show.”
The latter involves a complex set that allows Hook's pirate ship to rise into view from below the stage floor, and some intricate designs made of bamboo shoots that function as the Neverland forest.
“When rehearsals began, they told us we'd love the set because it was basically a playground made of bamboo,” Fields said. “The Lost Boys have a lot of fun together. We're friends on and off stage.”
In this version of Barrie's story, Wendy and John head to Neverland in search of their brother Michael. Their journey is fraught with danger but also with soaring flying expeditions and sword fights with pirates. The musical also explores what it means to grow up and the joys and challenges of embracing the natural course of life.
“Exploring J.M. Barrie's classic novel, I've been interested in three big questions,” director Jeffrey Seller said in a program note. “What is the cost of growing up? What is the cost of not growing up? And finally, what do we gain when we embrace growing up and growing older? There have never been characters more qualified to answer these questions than Peter Pan, Wendy and Hook.”
Because theater is a collaborative endeavor, Fields says performances can change from one night to the next. And while those changes tend to be subtle in nature, the makeup of the audience plays a very important role in the theatrical equation.
“If we have a good audience that's responsive, I think I do better as a performer,” Fields said. “On opening night, everybody clapped whenever the lights dimmed in the theater. That was a really good sign that we'd have a good audience. When that happens, we can really feel their energy.”