One of the core missions of the Grandview Carriage Place Players community theater group is to "keep raising the bar" for participants in its shows.

"You want to keep challenging yourself and the people in your cast to try new things and find out if they can fly," said director John Heisel.

The group's next production will truly be a test of whether the actors can fly.

"Peter Pan: Lost Boy of Neverland" will include scenes in which Peter and other characters soar above the stage.

"It's the most ambitious show we've ever done," Heisel said. "We've hired ZFX, a performer-flying-effects company from Louisville, Kentucky, to come up and help us with our flying effects."

About 75 people from Grandview Heights, Columbus and northwest Franklin County have been cast in the show.

"It's our largest cast yet," Heisel said. "The show originally had under 50 characters, but when we had 70-some people come out for auditions, we decided to expand the show.

"There are a lot of pirates, fairies and mermaids," he said.

The play was written by Columbus playwright Todd Adam Decker, author of several other Grandview Carriage Place Players shows.

"It's the traditional story of Peter Pan with a kind of re-envisioning, with more action in the plot and not as many songs," Heisel said.

"It's a show that's really about families and learning to use your imagination to fly."

"While it's based on the traditional story, our show goes a little bit deeper in the relationship of Peter and the characters in Neverland," Decker said. "It's about the things that unite a family and how they respond together to the trials and danger presented by Captain Hook."

Decker, who has acted in previous productions, portrays Hook in the show.

"It's the first villain I've played, and it's a lot of fun to play someone who's up to no good," he said. "Usually, I play someone who is a decent person supporting the hero. It's great to get the chance to go in the opposite direction with a character."

Heisel began a community theater group 10 years ago at the Carriage Place Recreation Center.

The group teamed with Grandview Parks and Recreation, and the united troupe kicked off in 2010 with a production of "A Midsummer's Night Dream."

"It was a much smaller show than 75 people -- we had about 14 in the cast of that first show," Heisel said.

"It's gratifying to see so many people excited about our program and wanting to be a part of it," said Marta Durban, recreation supervisor with Grandview Parks and Recreation.

"A lot of that is because of John and the skill, energy and encouragement he provides as director," she said.

Heisel said he wants to inspire the same enthusiasm for theater he developed as a boy after watching Mary Martin in a television production of "Peter Pan."

"Seeing Peter Pan fly in that show hooked me on the magic of theater," he said. "Directing a Peter Pan show has always been on my bucket list."

Community theater is important because it gives people the chance to explore and express their creativity, Heisel said.

"Hopefully, the time they are investing in theater will inspire them to carry forward their creative efforts in their lives and their community," he said.

"Peter Pan: Lost Boy of Neverland" will be performed at 7 p.m. March 16-17 and 2:30 p.m. March 18 at the Columbus Performing Arts Center, 549 Franklin Ave. Tickets are $5 at the door.

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