“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough.”
In its DC area premiere, Peter Pan in the ThreeSixty Theatre has plenty of stimulating ingredients providing an exciting, dreams-come-true technically sophisticated evening of entertainment visiting in J. M. Barrie’s fictional Neverland.
Add to that, it’s in a most unlikely spot: a big tent on a surface parking lot off a side street near Tysons Corner Shopping Center and not a long walk from the Greensboro Silver Line Metro stop. Good news for local audiences! So, be prepared to become some of the 3000 gawking eyes looking up 40 feet toward the cupola of the massive tent as you witness plenty of breath-taking high-flying.
This Peter Pan as directed by Thom Southerland, is a stylish melding of live stage craft, a 20-member skilled in movement cast, visually-arresting 360 degree, 3-D computer generated projections, old-fashioned puppets and sweeping charged original music along with the total bravery on the part of its flying cast and those behind the scenes technical magicians who make it all work.
Now, you know the story. And so do your children and grandchildren. No need to go into too much detail. One night, Peter Pan, a boy who would rather never grow up, flies into the nursery of the Darling family living in Edwardian London. He teaches the children; the eldest Wendy, and her brothers John and Michael, to fly. Off they go Neverland to join up with Tinker Bell, Tiger Lily, and the Lost Boys. They all have many adventure including some nifty scuffles with Captain Hook and his pirate band.
The characters you remember from your own youth, or reading to your children and grandchildren are all there on stage. In this contemporary Peter Pan, Dan Rosales is a plucky, amiable, strong-willed Peter rather than merely mischievous. His flying skills are fearless and make it all seem so easy. Ha! And he tosses of key lines such as, “to die will be an awfully big adventure” in a blithe manner.
Stephen Carlile is double-cast as an Edwardian age Mr. Darling and Captain Hook, the disreputable nemesis of Peter Pan. Apropos of the Edwardian times; he is initially a loud, obnoxious man. He only learns when almost too late, that the finger he points at others, is truly pointed at himself. As Mrs. Darling, Hannah Jane McMurray is sweetly poignant and has the most nuanced performances of the evening.
The young Wendy Darling is an assertive, no push-over young woman as portrayed by Sarah Charles (An Annapolis, MD native). She is far from what some call in the play say of her; “she is only a girl!” A full of moxie, tutu-wearing Jessie Sherman is a very spirited, real-life “Tinker Bell.” As Tink, Sherman has a sharp “attitude” throwing regular tantrums and melt-downs that many a parent will all too recognize. As Tiger Lily, a lithe Porsha Putney provides plenty of dancing talents to enliven the evening.
As for the “Lost Boys” and the “Pirates,” they provide comic relief and boyish fighting. There are two mermaids (Megan Godin and Elisa Penello) who perform acrobatic maneuvers while hanging from flexible polls aided by long pastel colored silks ribbons. Let me not be remiss; the show is most charming whenever the very adorable, two person powered very large puppet crocodile ambles by or when an adorable sweet canine named Nana has her time barking on stage (Liam Fennecken).
Now, a huge standing ovation and kudos to the joy-stick skills of the unseen technical folk who are the winds beneath and above the out-stretched arms of the flying actors. The large round stage is about 5 feet off the main floor. It holds a plentitude of large and small smoothly opening and closing trap doors that revolve revealing props and set pieces.
Now what about audience amenities under what is a temporary tent. With 1500 in the audience, the lines for the bathrooms moved quickly. I didn’t overhear any major complaints. The seats were comfortable, and the air conditioning (though loud and in quieter stage moments interfered with hearing to understand the spoken dialogue) will be invaluable on any hot, muggy Northern Virginia July evening. Souvenirs seemed to be reasonably priced and with relentless hucksters. As for the tent itself, it was a marvel of construction; no interior supporting tent poles. The walk to the parking area was assisted by police at strategic points and took less than 10 minutes.
Now for the ages of children best to see this Peter Pan, let me just cut-and-paste this from the Peter Pan FAQ’s: “The production is suitable for children aged 5 and over. All children age 2 and up require their own ticket and their own seat. Infants younger than the age of 2 will be admitted at parent’s discretion and may sit on a parent’s lap.” As for the children near me during the performance, they seemed glued to the action and made sure their voices were heard to bring Tink back.
Sure, there are annoyances to mention, including a muddy sound that hurt the narrative at times. But, there is just so much to admire Peter Pan in ThreeSixty Theatre. And for any adult who might get bored, well, just look up 40 feet to marvel at all the high-tech aspects that bring this modern adaptation of J. M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan to high-definition life. Then look on stage to smile at that puppet croc. Finally and this is most important, hug your children, hug your grandchildren, hug your partner before they all grow up and stop believing in magic.
So, “Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning”
Running Time: Two hours, with one 20-minute intermission.