Peter Pan (played by Ashlee Sales) engages in a duel with Captain Hook (played by Daniel Sailland) during rehearsals for the ECHO Players’ Christmas musical this year, Peter Pan, opening Dec. 13. — Adam Kveton Photo

Still Peter Pan, but with more girl power in Qualicum Beach play

ECHO’s Christmas musical includes some tweaks by director Julian Packer

The charming story of lost children escaping to a magical land, led by a puckish Pan in green tights to fight dastardly adult pirates remains for families to look forward to for the ECHO Players’ annual winter musical.

But director Julian Packer, known for directing pantomime Dick Whittington for the ECHO Players in 2016, has made a few changes to the story as well.

Turns out it’s not just boys who get lost in Neverland, but girls, too. And there are also some ladies up for the life of a cutthroat, sabre-bearing swashbuckler.

“Because I’ve been able to adapt it, we have a strong emphasis on women’s rights,” said Packer just before the Nov. 29 rehearsal got going.

“In the pirate ship, which begins as all male, they certainly decide they want female pirates… so it’s an equal opportunity pirate ship,” said Packer with a smile.

The character of Wendy remains traditional, except that she wants to be an architect, he said. The part of the Indians, however, has become the lost girls.

“All these lost girls have names that are representative of women who have pushed for women’s rights in the workplace,” explained Packer.

That includes sufragette Nellie McClung who was a member of The Famous Five, New Zealand’s current prime minister Jacinda Ardern, Patricia Bath who invented a laser device that deals with cataracts, and others.

“(The musical) does say that we’ve got to give everybody opportunity to reach their potential,” said Packer. “That (message) is really important to me, because that’s relevant to this society, and to Qualicum and to girls who are coming up through the school system.”

Apart from these changes, Packer said work on the musical has been a bit daunting, with a cast of about 40 with more than have being children and youth, but fun and an opportunity to include whole families.

“You do get a family feel as you’re working at it,” he said. “The sense of ensemble, of camaraderie, of working on something together. That’s really, really important.”

With the musical taking ECHO’s holiday spot this year, Packer said Peter Pan does include a panto lineage, and will even include a bit of audience involvement.

Captain Hook especially, played by Daniel Sailland, will get to play to the audience.

The titular character will be played by Ashlee Sales, who is also serving as musical director.

The performance also looks to include some exciting stage and prop tricks, with set designer Sarah David highly involved.

The musical opens Dec. 13 at the Village Theatre (110 West 2nd Ave. in Qualicum Beach), with performances until Dec. 30. For more info, go to www.echoplayers.com.

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