J.M. Barrie’s classic ‘Peter Pan’ gets a modern upgrade in stage spectacular

Tinker Bell, Michael Darling, Peter Pan, Wendy Darling, and John Darling take flight by way of spectacular stage effects in the US premiere of 'Peter Pan.'

The timeless tale of the boy who never wanted to grow up comes to life in an unforgettable stage show equipped with CGI effects, aerial suspension, innovative set design, and papier-mache puppets.

J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is the latest family-friendly classic to make its venture on live stage. Straight from London, the show made its US premiere in April, in the custom-built Threesixty Theater on the Embarcadero in San Francisco, and will be making its way to Orange County in October.

Yes, you heard that right: custom-built. Due to the logistics of the innovative production, the show is required to take place on open park space, underneath a tent-shaped venue that allows the display of visual 360-degree effects and the aerial suspension of the cast members for the flying scenes, as well as easy set changes. The 1,200-seat center stage venue allowed for an intimate experience — a great deal for a visually pleasing and adventurous show. The CGI projections were rendered from the same computers that were used to design the graphics used in the Spider Man films and with the new effects made for Peter Pan, the audience flew with Peter, Tinker Bell, and the Darling children — Wendy, John, and Michael — through the skies of London, went underwater with mermaids, rummaged through the forest with the Lost Boys, and went “yo-ho-ho” with pirates. And with a simple rotating platform, the scene could instantly switch from an enchanting lagoon to a battlefield of a pirate ship. The groundbreaking sets, effects, and stunt performances in such a small venue–with an unobstructed view from EVERY seat–made this new version of Peter Pan a truly one-of-a-kind experience.

Of course, a bright cast of actors portraying the iconic characters topped off the spectacular production and embodied all of the spirits of Barrie’s mindchildren. Most of the cast from the original UK production reprised their roles, led by Jonathan Hyde (Pulling double duty as Captain Hook and Mr. Darling), Nate Fallows (Peter Pan), and Abby Ford (Wendy Darling); new faces consisted of a few Bay Area thespians. My personal favorite portrayal was that of Peter’s fairy sidekick, Tinker Bell, played by original cast member Itxaso Moreno. The pint-sized actress was an absolute riot as the annoying and sassy character. Also, major kudos to Christopher Keller, the versatile lead puppeteer who brought Nana the dog, the infamous crocodile, and other animalistic characters to life through papier-mache. The way the crocodile was constructed was a bit laughable (You have to see it to believe it!), but the execution of the character was worth applauding.

The only complaint I have is about the lack of Indians, as my favorite version of Peter Pan is still the classic Disney animated film and I enjoyed the scenes with them in it (Though that plus the 1991 live feature film Hook, starring Robin Williams, are the only ones I’ve seen, to be honest). Even though the only presence of those characters came in the form of Tiger Lily’s fierce dancing, every minute of Peter Pan was worth watching and savoring. With old characters brought alive with lovable acting and care and with its absolutely stunning production, this magical stage show will blow your mind, take your breath away, and warm your heart.

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