She doesn’t know exactly where it came from, but Lilly Burchfield has always wanted to play the title role in “Peter Pan.”
“I grew up with the Disney one, of course, and when I was 3 is when the live-action version came out, and it was so magical,” she recalls. “I was obsessed with it. I also grew up watching the Cathy Rigby PBS recording. Cathy Rigby is a gymnast, and so was my mom, so we watched it a lot. I think I had it memorized by the age of 5.”
That memorization will come in handy as Burchfield, a Samford University graduate, stars as “Peter Pan” at the Virginia Samford Theatre. The musical, featuring songs such as “I’m Flying,” “I”ve Gotta Crow” and “I Won’t Grow Up,” opens June 15 and runs through July 2.
The show is directed by Henry Scott, with musical direction by Michael King, scenic and lighting design by Ben Boyer and costume design by Marilyn Locke. The cast includes Alexandria Brandstetter as Wendy, Kyle Holman as Captain Hook and Nick Crawford as his sidekick Smee.
Burchfield grew up in Birmingham and attended Vestavia Hills High School, where she appeared in theater productions.
“I think subconsciously I knew I was going to go into acting sometime in my life,” she says. “I grew up watching these shows recorded on PBS, and my two brothers did theater in high school. I watched them and thought, ‘That’s fun. I’m going to do that.’”
She graduated from Samford and interned with a theater for a semester in Ireland. She only recently returned, and “Peter Pan” is her professional debut in Birmingham.
It’s fitting that it’s on the Virginia Samford Theatre as her grandmother, Ann Russ, acted in productions with Town & Gown Theatre on that stage. Burchfield joins a group of previous Peter Pans in Birmingham that includes Cathy Rye Gilmore, Jonathan Fuller, Lisa Paden Gaines, Chris Sams and Nancy Malone.
Like them, Burchfield will be flying high above the stage when the boy who won’t grow up makes his treks from the Darling house to Neverland.
“I’m not really scared of heights, so I just put on the harness and said, ‘Let’s go,’” Burchfield says.”It has been so much fun to do this show my first year out of college. It’s reminding me to keep that inner child and inner light inside.”
It has all been a positive experience, according to the actress.
“I’m just playing pretend with a character I love,” she says. ‘It’s great.”
“Peter Pan,” at the Virginia Samford Theatre June 15 through July 2. Get tickets here.