NBT’S ‘PETER PAN’ A SOARING SUCCESS
By: Hal de Becker
When Peter Pan flew into The Smith Center he brought with him not only Tinker Bell, Wendy, pirates, fairies, Captain Hook and others from J.M. Barrie’s beloved story, he also brought smiles that he sprinkled like fairy dust on every face in the audience.
Nevada Ballet Theatre’s Mother’s Day production of “Peter Pan” was one of the most joyful, uplifting and gratifying new works the company has presented recently.
It was choreographed by one of Canada’s outstanding dance makers, Jorden Morris. Like Frederic Ashton’s story ballets, the plot and its characters were conveyed with standard, but sparkling, pure classical ballet combined with naturalistic mime and moves. The dancers themselves seemed to enjoy performing it as much as patrons did viewing it.
The original story was written, and takes place in England’s early 20th century Edwardian era. Sets, costuming, mannerisms and even the music were true to the period. Three of the five composers, Eric Coates, Sir Edward Elgar and Montague Phillips, lived during that time. Later works by Sir Benjamin Britten and Ron Goodwin were also used.
While it was thrilling to see Peter, Tinker Bell, Wendy and her two brothers ‘flying’ high above the stage, it was the excellent dancing below that made the ballet such a gratifying event.
In the title role, Jun Tanabe’s compact boyishness and good acting were delightful and his multiple pirouettes breathtaking.
But it was Emma McGirr in the comedic part of Tinkerbell who dominated scene after scene. Her eccentric and musically attuned movements of arms, hands, hips, legs, every part of her body, and her expressive eyes and facial expressions approached Chaplinesque artistry.
As the mother Mrs. Darling, Alissa Dale was warm and loving and later, in the contrasting role of Tiger Lily, effectively exotic. Betsy Lucas was persuasive as her young daughter Wendy.
Wendy’s two brothers, Michael and John, were portrayed by Isabella Kowalski and Emmie Strickland, respectively. They were so convincing as rascally young boys that it wasn’t until intermission, looking for the ‘guys’ names, that I discovered they were gals.
Benjamin Tucker shifted skillfully from the refined Mr. Darling to the wild and wicked Captain Hook. Christiana Ghiardi was the sympathetic maid Liza and Chris Dexter the loyal dog Nana.
Steven Goforth did what he could with the ballets only under-choreographed, under- costumed, under-developed character: Crocodile. Croc’s appetite for Hook’s remaining arm and Hook’s fear of him gobbling it were ineptly crafted. And the skimpy replications of a jaw and tail on Croc’s flesh-colored body leotard were barely visible.
In Act 1’s rousing Neverland scene, the shifting and crisscrossing inter-action of various groups of Pirates, Lost Boys and Fairies displayed to the full the dancers’ unity of movement, technical brilliance and captivating enthusiasm.
The dancers were too good to go unnamed. The men: Sergio Alvarez, Enrico DeMarco, Morgan Stillman, Madison Ewing, Jordan Mcintosh, David Hochberg, Rode Krige, Khaiyom Khojaev and Stephan Azulay who executed a rarely performed triple tour en’lair.
The Ladies: Kaori Fukui, Michelle Meltzer, Rachel Thompson, Caroline MacDonald, Krista Baker, Katherine Zimmerman, Alyssa Gold and Andrea Jensen.
Act II was more subdued. The innocent puppy-love of Wendy and Peter was touching as was the Darling children’s decision to leave Peter and return home - taking with them the four Lost Boys.
The final scene was amusing with the Darling parents facing the dilemma of adding four more children to their household.
Caitlin Peabody and ballet mistress Tara Foy were rehearsal assistants and obviously did an excellent job. Flying was under the direction of Harold Christiansen of Flying by Foy. That it went so smoothly was a credit to him and the willing (brave?) dancers.
Scenic designs by Don Rutley and Andrew Beck were extremely effective and a perfect blend of fact and fantasy. Costumes were uncredited but good. The appropriated lighting design was attributed to Robert Hand assisted by Peter Jakubowski.