Walking up to City Hall Plaza to see Peter Pan at the threesixty Theatre, I was struck by something (besides the fact that the “theater” strangely made me think of the tent from Killer Klowns from Outer Space): most of the Peter Pans I’ve seen in my life have been adaptations, variations on the original play by J.M. Barrie. Spielberg’s Hook or Disney’s Peter Pan, etc. (I skipped the 2003 version.) Even the filmed stage version with Mary Martin as Peter was a musical, something Barrie did not contribute.
Although it was adapted by Tanya Ronder, this version sticks pretty close to the Barrie original. But don’t go thinking it’s just that. As I’m sure you’ve heard, the threesixty Theatre is exactly what it sounds like. Images are projected on the entire surrounding ceiling of the tent, so that you are completely immersed in 1904 England.
These images are CGI, and when the characters fly, the entire projection moves, with shoots of cities far below rushing by. It’s quite striking.
But it’s not all hi-tech. What’s wonderful about this Peter Pan is how they mix together new technology with old-fashioned effects.
The crocodile, for example, is manned by two puppeteers pushing along two carts with the front guy working the croc’s face. The dog Nana is also a puppet, controlled by a man in black who runs along side. I loved those touches.
What about the show itself? Well, it’s Peter Pan. The gang’s all here: Peter (Chuck Bradley), Wendy (Evelyn Hoskins), Tinker Bell (Emily Yetter) and Hook (Josh Swales). Director Ben Harrison, Designer William Dudley (who’s credited with the 3D projection, as well as sets and costumes), and cast really want to tell this classic story right, with all the proper emphasis on child-like awe and innocence. I was still moved by Peter’s call for us to believe in fairies to help Tinker Bell get better. I was still excited to see them fly and fight pirates.
It was just a really fun time.
Peter Pan is sweeping, charming and even manages to be sexy (Tiger Lily’s dance and the mermaids’ sequence). The effects did not distract, but added to the experience. The sets were deceptively simple but were ingeniously designed. And the performances were precisely what they needed to be.
The one note I will make about this show is the price of the tickets. I sat in what seemed like a really good seat, facing the part of the wall where the characters faced when they flew. I would wonder how the audience members on the other side fared. I’m not sure. And if the more affordable prices were those ones, it gets harder to recommend a show that could potentially cost $75.
This, of course, is not to say that you shouldn’t go see it if you’ve got the money. You should. It’s truly a treat. But that is just something to keep in mind. Because, you know, unlike Peter Pan, we’re adults with adult problems.
[Peter Pan. Now through 12.30.11. threesixty Theatre. City Hall Plaza. $35-$75. 888.772.6849. peterpanshow.com.]