Peter Pan

With Indians, pirates, mermaids, a fairy, and best of all, flying children with secret hiding places away from persnickety adults, Peter Pan captures just about every kid's perfect fantasy. So, the Colorado Ballet deserves a big round of applause and an extra serving of cake and ice cream for choosing to recreate this beloved and ambitious story for its audience of the future. And pulling it off as well as they did, even with a few wrinkles noticed by a persnickety adult, is no mean feat, and warrants an additional helping of jelly beans.

Photo of Wendy as prisoner of the pirates
Wendy as prisoner of the pirates
Photo: Terry Shapiro
After artistic director and, in this case stage director, Martin Fredmann chose the music—selections from Leo Delibes' score for the ballet Sylvia and a Delibes/Ludwig Minkus collaboration from the ballet La Source—the biggest challenges for co-choreographers and company members Gregory Gonzales and Andrew Thompson were in blending the flying effects with the dancing, and wedding the music and the action.

Working with the same folks that originally put Mary Martin in the air, Gonzales and Thompson stealthily pulled off Peter's trademark fly-in through the window, his alighting atop the fireplace, and all the usual heroic maneuvers that help our boy wonder confound Captain Hook and his nasty band. The disengagements from the wires are generally handled with aplomb, and covered by other (distr)actions. When Peter teaches Wendy and the boys to fly like him, even the most hardened grown-up experiences a stirring of hope that the dream of flight is just a matter of finding the right teacher.

Photo of Tiger Lily and the Lost Boys
Tiger Lily and the Lost Boys
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Most astounding was the appropriateness of the music for the plot. One can quibble that there were no extended classical solos or pas de deux, but let's face it, a lot happens in this story, and it all gets done in just under two hours, including one intermission—a big plus for the adolescent set.

All the principal roles are double-cast. On the evening of this production, Chauncey Parsons as Peter expressed all the bravado and impudence our hero is known for, flying across the stage when he wasn't airborne. His interplay with Igor Vassin as The Shadow was magical, including the segues between the human and one-dimensional forms.

Photo of Wendy and Peter
Wendy and Peter
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Maria Mosina as Wendy captured the perfect balance between girlish enthusiasm and the stirrings of maternal affection for her younger brothers and the Lost Boys. Her relationship with Peter was playful, with inklings of infatuation. Better that we would have left her wistfully starring out the window toward Never-Neverland than in the too-literal anti-climactic epilogue for grown-ups, passing the torch to her daughter.

Photo of Tinkerbell and Wendy fighting over Peter
Tinkerbell and Wendy
fighting over Peter
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Sharon Wehner's Tinkerbell was equal parts impish and cherubic, jealous and breathtakingly ethereal. Her chemistry with Parsons left no doubt that she would drink poison to save him.

Photo of Captain Hook and Smee
Captain Hook and Smee
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Oleg Dedogryuk and Janelle Cooke were commanding and exuded classic English elegance as Mr. and Mrs. Darling. Hua Zhuang's Captain Hook arrived Pasha-like in a litter, scared us with his vicious outbursts, then turned around and elicited guffaws with his cowardly exit when the ticking crocodile sidled up alongside his boat. Andrew Thompson's Smee was equal parts solicitous and nasty, and Sayaka Karasugi's stubborn and brave Tiger Lily led a group of spirited Native American dancers.

The costumes, courtesy of the Cincinnati ballet, are bright and exotic, and the hard sets are a mix of functional and fun. Given the quick pace at which the story unfolds, there is some artistic compromise in the repeated transitions involving the scrim, as well as the projected slides taking us between London and Peter's island. With the ubiquitousness of desktop special effects software these days, better illusions are called for here.

Never-nevertheless, the Colorado Ballet's Peter Pan is a delight for young and old alike. It runs through April 25th at the Buell Theatre. 303-893-4100.

Bob Bows


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