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‘Peter Pan’ is ready to soar

Olathe Northwest High School promises an uplifting experience with its fall musical, literally.

Next week’s production of “Peter Pan” will take on the riggings of a full-scale Broadway extravaganza. Not just Pan, but six actors will “fly” on stage. And not just once but throughout the show.

“This is extreme musical,” said director Robin Murphy.

Senior Daniel Liñán, a newcomer to theater, chose a doozy for his debut. An injury kept him from playing soccer this fall so he decided to try something new. He got the lead.

“He walked on and he embodied the spirit of Peter Pan, both physically and energetically,” Murphy said. “He has a beautiful voice. And he’s very mischievous.”

Liñán was happy to learn he had landed the role.

“Then they said, ‘Oh, yeah, you get to fly.’ ”

Liñán said that turned out to be more difficult than he thought it would be, but he’s having fun.

“I always seem to be spinning,” he said.

While soaring across the stage, Liñán also has to remember he is an actor in that harness.

“It’s a full musical experience,” he said. “I get to fly and sing. There’s one point where I fly with a sword in my hand to try and get Hook.”

Liñán is a strapping Peter Pan, unlike some productions that go for a more spritely type. That was a deliberate choice, Murphy said, because author J.M. Barrie’s tale is about the conflict of the male and female psyches and between freedom and security.

Liñán took some ribbing from classmates about playing the role. Some good-naturedly called him “Pedro Pan” because he is half Hispanic. But he knows many people wish they could get up in the air.

There is no way to make the wires invisible, Murphy said, but the impact of the flying is such that audiences will be able to suspend disbelief.

This is most challenging production attempted by Olathe Northwest since the school opened in 2003. Murphy, who has been theater director the whole time, said they have previously staged more traditional fare such as “The Sound of Music” and “Oklahoma.” Murphy and musical director Pam Williamson chose “Peter Pan” in part because they wanted to do something spectacular.

But it’s not cheap. The school hired a company, ZFX Flying Effects of Louisville, Ky., to help. Murphy said she was fortunate that her principal, Gwen Poss, was supportive of the production and its costs.

Alex Thompson of ZFX Flying Effects spent three days in Olathe training the actors who fly during the production. ZFX also brought the special stage gear to make the effect work. He also trained the fathers of the fliers, including Alonzo Linan, who will control the wires for their children. That decision was made for everyone’s peace of mind, Murphy said.

So, there won’t be any missteps like those that marred the previews of Broadway’s “Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark,” right?

“Oh, heavens no,” said Murphy. “I was very impressed with ZFX, their safety and their attentiveness. And those dads are going to be super protective. I’m depending on them.”

“Peter Pan” runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the school, 21300 College Blvd. Curtain is 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased online at www.onwravens.net or at the door.

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