By Jennifer Mustoe
Last December, I went to Utah Metropolitan Ballet‘s excellent The Nutcracker, and I was hooked–so when Peter Pan came up on the calendar, I gave the reviewing gig to myself. I hadn’t had enough ballet in December, and now, after the fantastic Peter Pan, I’m even more hooked than before. (I just realized that using the word “hook” is a little bit of a pun. Ha!)
Ballet is a beautiful story-telling medium–we understand the story through dance and music. The dancers use expressions and movement interacting with others onstage to tell their story. But, it’s advantageous if you know the story before you go. Most people are familiar with the Peter Pan story, either from the 1953 Disney cartoon, the movie Hook, or the live action 2003 film. UMB’s production is very easy to follow, and I found myself smiling as each plot point cascaded on the stage.
Peter Pan originated as a book by J.M. Barrie, and is the story of a boy who never wants to grow up. With the help of his fairy friend, Tinkerbell, Peter Pan (Qing Sun) can fly and he goes to visit the Darling children to listen to Wendy (Kaitlyn Potts/Mallory Moon Wilson 10E, 12) read to her brothers, Michael (Garrett Garbett) and John (Lucas Elzey). Peter takes Wendy and her brothers to his island of Neverland where they meet the Lost Boys, the Indians including the beautiful princess Tiger Lily (Jennifer Christie/Katelyn Conrad 10E, 12), and a band of dastardly pirates, led by Captain Hook (Christopher Young). There are other amazing characters that present themselves in this ballet as well as a fantastic ensemble, but two of my favorites were Nana the Dog (Timothy Silver), and the Crocodile (Madeline Chenn). They need to be seen to be believed. I think I could watch a whole ballet with just these two.
Each scene, in the Nursery, Neverland, The Lagoon, The Indian Camp, Aboard the Jolly Roger, are all magical. But honestly, when Sun comes flying in as Peter, I couldn’t stop smiling. Peter, Wendy, John, and Michael all fly and it is spectacular. Sun is fantastic as Peter, with the classic you can’t boss me around hands on hips feet apart stance. But Sun brings so much more to the character–he shows Peter’s tenderness, his vulnerability, his bravery, his youth and innocence, and even his immaturity. I loved his Pan! Potts as Wendy is absolutely lovely, fun-loving, maternal, graceful, brilliant. Perfectly cast and perfectly executed. The brothers, played by Garbett and Elzey are darling–ha! Another pun. But I watched them–they never drop character, which is impressive. The other stand out is Tiger Lily and really all the female Indian dancers. And the Lost Boys! Oh, the Lost Boys! Their dances are filled with vigor, enthusiasm, and precision.
Costumes by Suellen Baum are fantastic, especially the fish and mermaids, and as I mentioned, Nana. Marianne Ohran‘s lighting design is great, lots of color and shades and some fun aspects. (Watch for the shadow scene.) Artistic Director Jacqueline P. Colledge knows how to get every step perfect from her cast. Each number is different (loved the Indian maidens piece) and delightful. The music, composed by Sylvio Amato, is fantastic. And I need to give special props to the Fly Crew: Sol Farrer, Taylor Ballard, Melissa Longhurst, Seth Mergist, and Glen Stapley. Spoiler alert–it takes more than pixie dust and happy thoughts to get Peter and his friends to fly and this crew is amazing.
This production of Peter Pan is, of course, completely family friendly, but when the pirates capture Tiger Lily, they do try to kiss her and it felt threatening to me, as it should. But for the most sensitive of littles, this may be an important topic of discussion for the drive home. But really–sword fights, energetic dancing, flying people–yes, this is a kid’s dream come true. But the show isn’t just for kiddos by a long shot. I admit, though, I felt like a kid at heart watching each scene.
My only concern is the remarkably long intermission. Kids were tearing all over the Covey for what seemed like a half-hour before the very short finale played.
Ballet can be interesting and maybe even difficult for children who are used to TV and movies that have talking in them. But I watched the kids in the audience (and this was family night, so believe me, there were a ton of kids) and they were mesmerized. I could hear several gasps every time Tinkerbell’s frantic green light started to shine and bounce all over. When we needed to clap to save Tinkerbell’s life, it felt like we were all in this together. C’mon, Tink! Hang in there! After the performance, several of the dancers, including Sun, came to greet us. As I left, I saw Sun kneeling down to show one wide-eyed little boy how Peter Pan could fly via a harness. This ended the evening for me on the best of notes. Even writing about this makes me smile.
For even more fun, Utah Metropolitan Ballet is having a Neverland Party! on Saturday, March 10, 4-5:00 PM at the Covey. Be sure to take your little pirates and mermaids to that. Info below.
Utah Metropolitan Ballet gives us quality performances in Utah County in the lovely Covey Center for the Arts in Provo. With Peter Pan, they bring magic, fun, sweetness, energy, and delight to the stage. This quote from the original J.M. Barrie sums up how I feel about this ballet: “You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”
Utah Metropolitan Ballet presents Peter Pan
The Covey Center for the Arts Main Hall 425 West Center Street Provo, Utah 84601
March 9-10, 2018 7:30 PM, March 12 7:00 PM, March 10 2:00 PM
Utah Metropolitan Ballet Facebook Page
Peter Pan Facebook Event
Neverland Party! Facebook Event
Covey Center for the Arts Facebook Page