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Next to my computer is my well-worn copy of J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, with the frontispiece stating: "My Book, Janet Anderson," as well as the addition in bold print: "Ten years old." That was my age when I fell in love with Barrie's book.
This ballet adaptation was indeed sumptuous and entertaining. But unlike The Nutcracker—where the Christmas Tree, the Mouse King and the children on stage pretty much tell the story for anyone in the audience— Peter Pan probably is an entirely new story for most youngsters in the audience.
The sets and costumes were gorgeous, but I had several uneasy moments as I looked at all the bright faces of some very young attendees and wondered if these well-behaved children actually knew the story line. Did they know about the lost boys, the pirates and Indians? And who was Wendy, who was not keen on growing up herself? Most of all who were Peter Pan, Wendy, the brothers John and Michael and Nana the ruling presence in the nursery (whom I remember as a dog)?
I attended this production with the hope of finding all the magic and story lines of this children's classic— and, to be sure, much was there. With his red hair and stocky body, Amir Yogev as Peter looked very much like a creature from another world, and Wendy (Lauren Fadeley in the performance I saw) were breathtaking as they flew across the stage in an airborne pas de deux.
Various shadows, fairies and other creatures from the otherworld appeared and disappeared. Fine performances were offered by many dancers who clearly enjoyed themselves. Zachary Hench, more usually a prince, played Captain Hook this time, and he gave a very funny performance that got some hearty laughs. Julie Diana, who in real life is a petite and pretty ballerina, danced the part of Mother, well disguised behind some padding. The cast included three nurses, but none of them were identified as Nana.
Then the production went under water, where merman Francis Veyette frolicked with the mermaids. We finished with pirates and fairies.
A modest proposal
Perhaps the sumptuous staging and costumes of this production (created by Houston Ballet) carried the story line for most children in the audience. But if this ballet receives another staging in the next year or so, I hope the troupe will provide some rudimentary program for the kids (big print and drawings) that basically tells the Peter Pan story, so the kids can read or look at the drawings and follow the story lines, or parents can read it to their young ones.
Then they can go home with a program all their own, and an introduction to a children's classic that works well as ballet. Perhaps the production will entice kids to read the book and fall in love with it, just as I did.♦
To read another review by Jonathan Stein, click here.
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