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a kate west review
by J.M. Barrie
directed by Ben Harrison
at the Orange County Performing Arts Center
600 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
running October 3, 2010 - EXTENDED
contact 714-556-2122 or http://www.peterpantheshow.com
"Peter Pan" is the beloved children's story about the boy who never grows up, captured on film and in a theme park ride by Walt Disney himself. This version, however, is the straight play adaptation (Tanya Ronder) of J.M. Barrie's famous novel. The British are now here and bring the 360 take from Kensington Gardens to major U.S. cities, guaranteed to succeed from the first mention on the recent PBS special coverage (check your local public television listings).
In a big-top tent à la Cirque de Soleil, the Peter Pan audience is surrounded by multimedia projections depicting lush scenery from the story. A moveable set in the center transports us back and forth from London to Never Never Land and back again. Essentially, the Darling family household is turned upside down when Peter Pan whisks in by moonlight and flies off with the three children, Wendy, John and Michael. Wendy, the oldest, becomes mother to the Lost Boys (Pan's rag-tag crew), while Peter's sidekick sprite Tinkerbell tries everything to sabotage this plan. The notorious pirate Captain Hook stalks them all and many adventures await the children before they remember they have parents and return to England. Our adventure lies in marveling at the CGI (computer-generated images) projections and the flying actors - quite a spectacle, indeed. And it sure does look like fun.
In this performance, Ciaran Joyce is Peter Pan to Beth Triffon's Wendy. Both of them show heartfelt joy (and great faith in the backstage crew) as they swing above us, cavorting and spinning. Emily Yetter is especially delightful as the ill-tempered Tinkerbell and her hilarious tantrum furies cannot be more perfect (plus she's simply adorable in her dirt-smeared little fairy girl outfit). Andrew Gruen and Elijah Trichon, as Wendy's brothers, fly as well and have a finely choreographed underwater scene involving mermaids. Heidi Buehler has a nice turn dancing as the captive Indian princess Tigerlilly and Jonathan Hyde is a gloriously villainous Captain Hook (and Mr. Darling), booming out threats and trembling at a fantastically constructed crocodile craving his flesh.
The animals in this production, Nana the nanny-dog and the famous crocodile, are human-operated puppets, the latter driven by two men on wheels. Their design is quite innovative and fun, given the amount of "oohs and ahs" from the kid spectators. The whole performance will keep your child wide-eyed, in awe. There is a lot to look at, including rowdy pirates and a chance to help Tinkerbell. And you will itch to fly yourself (trapeze schools may well regain popularity).
What you will take away most however, is that growing up is inevitable. We all (most of us, at any rate) leave our childhood behind and take on adult responsibilities in order to become well-rounded individuals. Peter Pan reminds us of our reckless youth and that the spirit of magic remains in a land close by that you can revisit once in a while, or at least encourage your children to go to. The boy who lost his shadow will never understand that you aged and what a real kiss means. He is a silly boy who plays hard and makes you laugh and he is an important part of your childhood, but we can't stay in Never Never Land forever. Eventually the story ends. But not until you've had the time of your life. And in 360 no less.
Read the original:
Peter Pan (100th Anniversary Edition) Read more!
a kate west review
by William Shakespeare
directed by Ben Donenberg
songs by Lyle Lovett (Dave Frischberg, Brian Joseph, Wendy Waldman,
Sara & Sean Watkins)
presented by The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles
at the Kirk Douglas Theatre/Center Theatre Group
9820 Washington Blvd, Culver City 90232
contact 213-972-7231 or 213-628-2772
running December 1-19, 2010
You don't think normally of Lyle Lovett when you think of Shakespeare (at least most of us don't). But you can see works by both this month in Culver City at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. This Center Theatre Group's production of "Much Ado About Nothing" also features Tom Irwin ("My So-Called Life") and Helen Hunt ("Mad About You"). The saucy tale takes place in a California vineyard, lustily brought to colorful life by Set Designer Douglas Rogers. Love and misunderstandings ensue, set to the tune of Lovett's laid back musicianship and Brian Joseph's musical direction.
The essential story is of Benedick (Irwin) and Beatrice (Hunt), two would-be lovers who initially hate each other (sound familiar, Hollywood?) You can guess the rest. In the meantime, cousin Hero (Grace Gummer) has to prove her virtue, in spite of the evil Don John (Stephen Root, "Newsradio"), Boracio (Chris Butler) and her distrusting finance Claudio (Ramon De Ocampo). Hero's father Leonato (Dakin Matthews) owns the vineyard with his brother Antonio (Jared Sakren) and likes to oversee his family's love life in addition to cultivating grapes. Don Pedro (Geoffrey Lower) is back from fighting with the rest of his crew and is ready to help meddle.
Lyle Lovett and his merry band (Lyle playing minstrel Balthasar at least on closing night) wander in and out of the drama, strumming and singing lyrics to match the mood and plot. Set against a sunny villa (with the occasional dramatic lightning storm), the music is cheery and fun and helps propel the story. Lovett does his best with the text, but really, it's more of a delight to be in his presence and witness the joy he has in performing.
As for the acting, it is top-notch professional for the most part, aside from Helen Hunt's signature low-energy mannerisms as Beatrice. The "naturalness" she is touted for on screen doesn't really work on stage, especially in the expressive world of Shakespeare, so it is challenging to have sympathy for her lovelorn bacherlorette. On the other hand, Dakin Matthews is superb as Leonato, a consummate classic actor, making the Bard accessible to all and able to transform from giddy to desolate with a single deft turn of phrase. Tom Irwin does well as a jovial Benedick, if a bit older than normally portrayed (but still kinda sexy). David Ogden Stiers ("M*A*S*H") also delights as the hilariously befuddled watchman Dogberry. Everyone else is fine and the action is finely tuned by director Ben Donenberg. Julie Arenal's choreography looks nice, but it is sometimes hard to know who to focus on during some of the more winding dance numbers.
It is a frothy, light fare, interspersed with hints of darker cruelty. The music helps the lighter side, not so much the dark, but in the end, we all want a happy ending so that works out alright. As in many of Shakespeare's comedies, the cruelty bits are not really redeemed, but rather accepted as a necessary balance to happier times. Not necessarily fair (or modern), but there you have it. If it makes you feel better, check out the Gallo wine during intermission to get into the spirit of things.