Peter Pan 360

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

"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)

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