The show that never grows up

The musical "Peter Pan" embodies the fantasy world of children who wish to never grow up, and who better to perform such an adventure than a cast of children?

John Taylor, the Executive Director of the Children's Musical Theater of Oregon, can't think of anyone, and therefore chose "Peter Pan" to be CMTO's fourth production since its establishment in the spring of 2006. Although the cast is mostly between the ages of 7 and 15 (save for Captain Hook, the only adult in the production), Taylor says that the goal of the company is to not produce "little kid" shows.

"We present professional and quality productions, but with new-to-the-theater kids performing," Taylor said. "That's something that no one else does around here."

From the casting to the set and the choreography, Taylor has made sure that this show presents the best quality that the company can produce. The full set will include a pirate ship, a rocky ocean cove, and an underground lair fit for the Lost Boys. Choreography for the show was directed by David and Elyse Roxander, who ran their own ballet and theater company in Marin County for 17 years. Before that, David was with the National Ballet of Canada for 19 years. For the Darling children's high flying travels to Neverland with Peter, ZFX Flying Inc. of Las Vegas will equip and teach the four children to fly from the rafters across the stage; not something one would expect from a usual children's theater.

And that's because CMTO is not your usual children's theater company. Taylor, with his wife Rhonda and son Zane, moved from Las Vegas to Ashland in 2005 with plans to found a professional children's theater. In Las Vegas, Taylor was the musical director, conductor and keyboardist for Cirque du Soleil's production "O." The show, written and directed by Franco Dragone, premiered at the Bellagio in Las Vegas in 1998. But Taylor, who got his start in musical theater at a children's company when he was 10, wanted to take a break and give back to children the opportunities that he had as a child. Two years later, with CMTO's mounting success, Taylor couldn't be happier or prouder.

"I look around and I just can't believe how good these kids are, and I've worked with people like Jennifer Lopez," said Taylor. "Our shows try to be just as professional as you would ever see."

In order to provide such a high level of professionalism for his cast, Taylor taps into his 25 years of experience in the world of professional theater and performance. With an undergraduate degree from Berklee College of Music and a graduate degree from Buxton University, Taylor has a long history in the music industry. He has toured with the 80s band Debarge, appeared and played on the soundtrack for the Jennifer Lopez movie "The Wedding Planner," and wrote English pop star Rick Astley's hit "Never Knew Love," which rose to No. — on the Great Britain charts.

Since Taylor began CMTO, the company has produced "Grease," "The Wizard of Oz," and later a stage production of the hit Disney movie "High School Musical." CMTO casts all children who audition in each show, giving everyone who tries out the opportunity to perform. The cast of Peter Pan includes more than 40 children, as well as one adult. The role of Peter Pan was double cast for the show, and will be performed by Maddy Grimes and Kelsey Cronin, who will switch off performances. Ron Wright, whose daughter Christina Wright is also in the show, is the only adult actor in the show and he will be playing Captain Hook.

"It seemed fitting for an adult to play the bad guy in this show," said Taylor of the casting decision.

"Peter Pan" opens at Crater High School Performing Arts Center on Thursday, Aug. 16 and will run for three weekends. For more information, call 778-3365 or visit CMTO's Web site at .

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