Thursday, May 26, 2011

A breathtaking production of Peter Pan

You may have see seen the 100 foot high circus tent at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Halsted, but unless you attend a performance of threesixty's Peter Pan, it's impossible to grasp the magic of what's happening inside those white canvas walls.
I saw the show Wednesday night with my friend Jani and our first grade daughters. Although no one sits more than a dozen rows from the stage, we were in the fifth row--close enough to see the stripes on Wendy's nightgown, the seam on Captain Hook's socks and the clothespins and neckties holding together the ingenious two-puppeteer contraption that is the Crocodile.

The show is done theatre-in-the-round style, but with two added bits of magic. The actors whip through the air like acrobats, unimpeded by tent poles; and every member of the audience gets to experience the sensation of flying thanks to the production's one-of-its-kind 360 degree movie screen backdrop. As Peter, Tinker Bell, Wendy and her brothers soar out their nursery window, we're transported over the rooftops, London Bridge and 400 square miles of CGI London. The girls' eyes widened and mine got a little teary (I'm a sap like that). Jani was suitably impressed but felt a little seasick.

This is not community theatre. Sparing no expense, the sets, costumes, effects and acting are all top-notch. If you're familiar with Walt Disney's Peter Pan, you'll find this telling of the story familiar. But the idiosyncrasies of threesixty's production are so creative and amusing they made for some of my favorite memories of the play: the animals played by fully visible puppeteers; the mermaids performing aerial acrobatics as the screens took us into an underwater realm; and Mr. Darling emerging at the end of the play from... well, you'll have to see that bit for yourself.

I was provided with free passes to the show and complimentary refreshments. Tickets start at $35/adult, $20/child and can be purchased at the Tribune Tower box office or online. We parked 1 1/2 blocks east on Chicago Avenue for $8.