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Monday, Jun 17, 2024

REVIEW – Peter Pan

“Second star to the right—and straight on ‘til morning!”

A theater in the round turns J.M. Barrie’s famous stage direction on its head in the delightful performance of his classic, “Peter Pan,” at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa.

The production is by London’s Three Sixty Entertainment Ltd., which aims to recreate children’s classics in tents.

The play takes place in a 100-foot-tall big top that’s been erected next to the center’s Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Computer-generated images splash across a screen that wraps around the upper walls of the tent for a seamless, animated backdrop.

The results are a bit like a high-definition screen-saver as the vivid sunsets, lapping waves and swaying palms of Neverland come to life.

We also get some aerial acrobatics, puppetry and perfectly charming characters— but that’s not what’s most impressive about this show.

Even better is Tanya Ronder’s adaptation, which takes the Disneyfied sweetness out of the children’s tale while hewing close to Barrie’s original. And the largely British cast somehow does the play more justice than a typical American performance.

Beloved Tinker Bell—wrought blonde, gentle and voiceless in the century since the story’s 1904 debut—reclaims herself here.

She’s portrayed as a dark-haired tomboy in scruffy boots—possessive, mischievous and a bit fiendish. The result is hilarious, and rather like a disgruntled gremlin in a pink tutu, with some LED Christmas lights thrown in for good measure.

Captain Jas. Hook is as surly, cocky and pitiable as ever. More so when the grim reaper, disguised as a giant crocodile with a ticking clock in its gut, pursues him across the stage.

Other highlights include a slow-motion swordfight, Tiger Lily as temptress, and a soaring view of Edwardian London.

It’s an excellent adventure for theater-goers of all ages, even the ones who, sadly, have already grown up.

Sarah Tolkoff

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