Peter Pan and Captain Hook are fierce rivals on stage and the movie screen.
But when the curtain rises Friday in the Princeton Performing Arts Center for the opening of Princeton High School’s fall musical “Peter Pan,” the relationship between Peter Pan and Captain Hook will be 10 years in the making.
PHS seniors Hannah Jenson, who plays Peter Pan, and Gino Fraboni, who plays Captain Hook, first took the stage together as first-graders at a summer drama camp.
“My mom had to drag me there on the first day after she signed me up,” Fraboni said.
He absolutely did not want to go to drama camp. But that changed quickly.
“The first day, I loved it,” Fraboni said. “I’ve wanted to be in shows ever since.”
The same goes for Jenson.
“I’ve never really been good at sports, so drama is something that has worked out good for me,” she said.
Both Jenson and Fraboni got their starts on the high school stage as fourth-graders when they were named to the cast of “The Wizard of Oz.” They went on to star in middle school plays together and, as middle school students, were cast members in PHS productions of “My Fair Lady,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Damn Yankees.” They have been in PHS one-act and three-act plays, including last year’s production of “Charlie’s Aunt,” and the PHS production of “Singing in the Rain” during their sophomore year. Fraboni played R.F. Simpson in that production, his biggest role to date prior to Captain Hook.
When it came time to audition for this year’s production, both Jenson and Fraboni set their sights high and aimed for the lead roles in “Peter Pan.” It was the first time in both their acting careers that they targeted a specific role, the actors said.
For Jenson, she was up to the challenge, both as an actor and from a personal standpoint.
And playing Peter Pan has proved to be every bit the challenge that Jenson thought it would be.
“Because I had to learn to be a boy,” Jenson said.
Learning the mannerisms of Peter Pan was also a challenge, she said.
“Peter is selfish and pays no consequences for his actions. Things have to go his way. Everything Peter does benefits him and he has no concern for the effects his actions have on others,” Jenson said.
Peter Pan is also a hard role, physically.
“You’re running around, singing at the top of your lungs and acting on top of that,” she said.
Jenson is also one of a handful of actors who “fly” in “Peter Pan.”
Over the teachers conference weekend, a four-day weekend for students, she had three days of specialized training with a crew from Las Vegas-based Foy Inventerprises Inc. This is the company that originally flew Mary Martin as Peter Pan in the original 1954 play, Potvin said. The company is famous for its work on Broadway and, more recently, Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas.
“I wear a harness and fly on one of two tracks — one that goes side to side and another that goes up and down, side to side,” Jenson said.
“Flying” is a challenge because Jenson and her fellow actors had to learn how the apparatuses work with their own bodies.
“You really have no control. Wherever the stagehands pull the ropes is where they take you,” she said.
Fraboni’s challenge lies in the fact that his character has a dual personality.
“I play Mr. Darling at first, and when we go to Neverland, he becomes Captain Hook,” Fraboni explained.
With a lead role like Captain Hook, there is also the pressure to capture the crowd.
“I have to be completely over the top and dramatic,” he said. “I have to be as ‘far out there’ as I can.”
“You can never go too far over the top,” Jenson said. “Bigger is better.”
Fraboni has been working on getting Captain Hook’s walk down.
“And I’ve been searching for the quirks in Hook’s attitude,” he said.
In other words, Fraboni said he has been working on finding Captain Hook’s voice.
Both Jenson and Fraboni said they have been challenged by the popularity of their characters and the desire to make the characters their own.
“You should come to the play with an open mind, because it just might be more different than you think,” Fraboni said.
“It’s magical,” Jenson said.
The play will be performed eight times over two weekends in early November. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2, 2 p.m. Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 and a finale at 2 p.m. Nov. 10.
Tickets are available at Marv’s True Value. Any remaining tickets will be on sale beginning one hour prior to show time. Tickets are priced at $10, $6 and $4.