It’s here at last. The day Lucy London has been waiting for. Today is the day she learns how to fly.
“I’m so excited! But also a little nervous,” admits London, who will be playing Wendy in Spreckels Performing Arts Center’s upcoming production of “Peter Pan.” “I’ve heard that it can hurt a little, when you are getting used to the flying harness,” she says, wincing playfully, “so yeah, I’m nervous. But mostly, I’m just really excited!”
London, 17, of Petaluma, has been rehearsing for weeks, but till now, she and her fellow “Peter Pan” cast-mates have kept their collective feet firmly on the ground. Well, on the stage. This morning — day one of Flying Training — several of them will be stepping into their harnesses linked to sturdy cables reaching up into the wings, where the show’s elaborate “flying system” has recently been installed.
“Are you ready to fly, my lovelies?” asks director Sheri Lee Miller with a cheerful smile.
“Yes!” shouts London, joining a chorus of enthusiastic affirmations supplied by Sarah Wintermeyer (Peter Pan), James Cotè and Tony Cavallero (Michael and John Darling), and ScharyPearl Fugitt (the Neverbird). Since the villainous Captain Hook and his crew of swashbuckling pirates do not fly, actor David Yen (who will be wearing the famous phalangeal hardware as Hook) is not here this morning. Those who are present include members of the backstage crew, stage manager Mary Jo Hamilton, various pirates and warriors who’ll be serving as “fly crew” — and Karl Gillick of Professional Rigging, a Bay Area company that specializes in making actors fly. Gillick, in recent Spreckels productions, has helped Mary Poppins to float through the sky and Tarzan, king of the Apes, to swing through the jungle from vine to vine.
“Okay. Let’s do harness checks for everyone,” suggests Gillick, once the actors have been strapped into their devices, which resemble Sumo wrestling outfits crossed with Batman’s utility belt and those shoulder straps at a Disneyland thrill ride. The actors wear them over their clothes, and (eventually) under their costumes. Gillick moves about, checking everyone’s harnesses, making adjustments here and there.
“I think we’re going to tighten up the back a little,” he tells London, fine tuning the harness’s buckle-work. Finally, he’s satisfied. “So … next thing is the flying,” he announces. “Please clear the stage area if you’re not flying. And ... who’s going first?”
London volunteers for the honor.
“Oh wow, I’m even more nervous now,” laughs London, stepping forward.
As the “fly team” watches closely, Gillick brings over London’s rig wire, currently snapped into a heavy sandbag to hold it down. Before every performance, he explains, each actor’s rig will be tested by flying a sandbag across the stage, putting it through the proper mid-air choreography. Gillick carefully disconnects the wire from the bag, and clips it onto the back of London’s harness. The wire, reaching up into the wings, runs through the fly system and off out of sight, where London’s team will control her flight by pulling the other end of the wire, stepping forwards or backwards to raise or lower her, sometimes jumping down from a platform to give her even greater elevation.
“Okay, let’s pick Wendy up a little,” Gillick calls to where her operator is waiting, partway up a short ladder. Holding her line, he steps off, while out on the stage, London suddenly lifts up into the air.
PLAN TO GO?
What: ‘Peter Pan,’ the musical
When: May 4-May 20, weekends. Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., matinees at 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays (no matinee Sat. May 5). There will be one 7 p.m. Thursday night show on May 17.
Where: Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park.
Admission: Tickets are $16-$28. Available at SpreckelsOnline.com or by calling the Box Office at (707) 588-3400. The Box Office opens one hour before show time.
Gala Preview Thursday Night: A special gala preview fundraiser event takes place Thursday, May 3, at 6 p.m., with a 7 p.m. preview performance. The gala includes festive snacks and drinks, a treasure hunt, meet and greet with the cast, auction items, and an opportunity to win your very own flying lesson on the Neverland set, just like Peter Pan. Gala tickets $30-$60.