Broadway In Chicago's Peter Pan

Clap your hands for Peter Pan

Broadway In Chicago's Peter PanWhat’s that flying through the air above Kensington Gardens?  A bird?  A giant balloon Snoopy, come to rule over us all?  Oh wait, it’s a group of kids, a boy who refuses to grow up, and a fairy.

Of course.  After all, this is Broadway in Chicago‘s Peter Pan. The story will be familiar to those who were introduced by the 1950’s Disney movie or, in a roundabout way, by the movie Hook. Unlike those versions, this features:

1.  People flying!  The actors were very securely attached to cables, which permitted them to soar across the stage and to ascend to the top of the tent.  When I say “very securely attached” I mean that I observed some actors willing to clip themselves in and others who were clipped in by another actor.  I imagined this being determined during a mighty frightening come to Jesus moment, with nightmarish thoughts of falling from great heights, the imagined horror of not being able to take off during the first, pivotal “I can fly!” moments, and “do you really want to crash to the stage and destroy theater for and the innocence of that 5 year old in the 3rd row?  Well, do you??”.

2.  Puppets!  If you’re like me, you grew up with puppets being largely synonymous with “Muppets.”  Kids these days are spoiled by less “hand up the butt” puppets and more artistically inventive puppets that move like living creatures.  If you have seen The Lion King, expect similarly wonderful, creative, human-driven puppets here.  In the case of the crocodile, archenemy of Captain Hook, the puppet is literally human-driven and, in a particularly humorous scene, revealed to also be full of gas.

Broadway In Chicago's Peter PanWill kids like this?  Absolutely, especially if they are young enough to believe that fairy tales are real, that people really can fly, and that in the end, the crocodile always get a tasty, tasty villain.  The custom-built tent that houses the show allows for visually stunning 360 degree special effects, which creates the sensation that the audience is also flying along with the characters.  The little girl behind me yelled, “they’re really flying!” when the characters first took to the skies, and the infectious exuberance generated by the kids in the audience was as though they were pumping in mood-enhancing substances.  Also, the Tinkerbell in this Peter Pan was feisty, pouty, temperamental, and very funny-in other words, perhaps the most realistic depiction of an eternal child, despite having wings (which you can buy in the concessions area!).

A word of warning: There are some scenes that might be scary to younger kids, though I was reminded that kids these days are regularly exposed to violence that I don’t recall existing in the peaceful utopia that was my childhood.  There are the requisite fight scenes, a scene where one character is executed (it is not graphic), and of course Captain Hook’s date with the crocodile.  The word “ass” was also used a few times, and hearing the little girl next to me repeat the phrase “silly ass” made me chuckle a bit (have fun, parents!).

Broadway In Chicago's Peter PanWill adults like this?  I genuinely think so, and not just if you have kids with you.  The character Tiger Lily performs a dance that is both technically and acrobatically impressive…and, at least to the male audience members, perhaps a bit Vegas-style impressive as well.  The man in front of me rose to give her a standing ovation after the dance, only to be smacked back down by his wife.  Based on videos of dance routines kids are doing now, plus quality programming such as Toddlers & Tiaras, I don’t think this dance will scar kids.  Of anything, they will probably find it a boring interlude.

For me, the best part was the return to childhood this offered.  As is central to Peter Pan, being an adult is hard and chock full of responsibility.  It was nice, even if just for a little over 2 hours, to be a child again: to believe that people can fly, that fairy tales exist (and not just for Kate Middleton), that good always trumps evil, and that life can be restored through the power of belief and a simple clap of the hands.

Click here for ticket info now performing at the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center North!

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