Peter Pan – The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up

By J M BarriePeter Pan chicago production

Adapted by Tanya Ronder

Directed by Ben Harrison

Music by Benjamin Wallfisch

Set, Costume & 3D projection design

by William Dudley

Produced by Broadway In Chicago

At the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center, Chicago

Eye-popping and jaw-dropping videos propel 360-degree CGI theatre experience.

The creatives at threesixty productions have blown-away the Imax films with their new 3-D computer-generated 360 degree video enhanced production of JM Barrie’s classic children’s story – Peter Pan.  Mounted originally in London, then moved to San Francisco, Atlanta and now in Chicago – Peter Pan becomes a “Total Theater” experience. According to co-producer Mat Churchill,  “Total theater means an  immersion into a variety of staging techniques, from traditional to the heretofore unseen.” That was present in threesixty production’s amazingly  thrilling production of Peter Pan. This show will blow you away with its inventive story telling and eye-popping video that complimented and enhanced the visual experience of flying over London in 1904.

Peter Pan, Chicago

This production of Peter Pan, not only was true to Barries’s novel, but it takes us on a journey so wildly entrancing that I felt like I was flying with the kids to Neverland. This needs to be experienced  to fully appreciate its visual artistry from the blend of video with live theatre. With the video consuming us 360 degrees from 12 projectors, we become apart of theatrical experience. Nothing like this has ever been so effective and all-encompassing on a Chicago stage!

Peter Pan, ChicagoPeter Pan, Chicago

The 1300 set tent allows for “in the round” staging that boasts 15, 000 square feet of Hi-Resolution video – three times the size of Imax screens. No matter where you sit, the experience surrounds and includes  you at every turn.

Peter Pan, Chicago

Besides the unique staging that includes a 100 foot tent top, the actors fearlessly soar over head on wires added a extraordinary dimension  to the story. The cast of 22 actors energetically tells Barrie’s story distinctly from the children’s point-of-view. Peter Pan is a kid-friendly story of the boy who refused to grow up.

When Peter Pan ( the charismatic Ciaran Joyce) returns to London to find his shadow, he awakens the Darling children- Wendy (Evelyn Hoskins), John Darling (Tom Larkin) and Michael Darling (Scott Weston) and Peter entices them to fly away from London to Neverland with him. Only Tinker Bell (Emily Tetter) seems to resent Wendy. Peter wants Wendy to be the mother for his tribe of Lost Boys.

Peter Pan, Chicago

The thrilling flying scenes totally transforms them (and us) to Neverland where the Lost Boys live in fear of the pirates led by Captain Hook (Steven Pacey). Tanya Ronder’s adaptation follows closely Barrie’s  original including most of the child-like fun and antics that produced many fun moments and a few laughs. The kids in the audience loved and reacted to the show vocally, especially when Peter asks them to say “I believe” in order to save Tinker Bell from death. It was a special moment.

Peter Pan, Chicago

Besides, the awesome videos, this production used imaginative puppets (by Sue Buckmaster) to depict a large dog, a swan and an enormous alligator hungry for Captain Hook’s other arm.

Peter Pan, Chicago

The action contains flying, fighting with swords, deep sea swimming, bow-and-arrows, cannon shots and wild dancing to tell the fantasy of the boy who wouldn’t grow up. There was a smattering of English folks tunes and some sea chanties  to deepen the atmosphere. It is refreshing to see a male play Peter Pan after Mary Martin and Cathy Rigby played him in other major productions. Ciaran Joyce plays Peter with a boyish charm and as a vigorously charismatic hero. We cheer and care for Peter. We see him not relate to the subtle sexual subtext from both Wendy and Tiger Lily ( Heidi Buechler). I guess never growing up means Pete will stay 10 years old forever?

Peter Pan, Chicago

Don’t let the visuals and special effects fool you, this Peter Pan is still a well acted piece of theatre that deftly tells its story in a most robust manic manner. This complex and tight production is a flawless blend of high visuals and traditional theatre that engages us with thrills and heartfelt fantasy. It gives us the opportunity to be a child again so we can experience the wonders of our unadulterated imagination to allows us to soar the heavens, to live adventures, and to escape from the real world. This Peter Pan is pure theatrical magic! Peter Pan is one of the finest touring shows to arrive in Chicago in years!  It is the kind of show that begs to be seen more than once.  Take the entire family to see Peter Pan – they’ll love you more for the experience.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: May 4, 2011

For full show information, go to the page for Peter Pan at TheatreinChicago.

At The Chicago Tribune Freedom Center, 650 W. Chicago ave., Chicago, IL, www.broadwayinchicago.com, tickets $25 – $75, Wednesdays thru Fridays at 7 pm, Saturdays at 2 & 7 pm, Sundays at 1 & 5 pm, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission, through June 19, 2011