J.M. Barrie’s PETER PAN in 360 Theatre
NOW PLAYING in HOUSTON through OCTOBER 25
by Bernadette Verzosa
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What would I choose?
Would I choose to grow up or remain a child forever?
These are the questions we ask our hearts when we fall in love with Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t grow up. His story awakens childlike wonder and imagination through its flying adventures with the fairies, pirates and mermaids of Neverland – all starting and ending in the familiar and cozy confines of a bedroom.
Scottish novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie created the character of Peter Pan in the early 1900s. Since then, the story has been a family favorite around the world – adapted and presented in many forms including a Broadway musical, a ballet, a Disney animated feature, a television special and several films.
PETER PAN in the Threesixty Theatre is an invigorating adaptation of the literary treasure and a memorable family experience. Children, parents and grandparents are made to feel like they’ve jumped into their beloved book and floated over London to explore Neverland.
The production combines traditional elements with futuristic special effects for an unforgettable theater-in-the-round journey. “Threesixty’s intention with PETER PAN has always been to remain faithful to the original story while employing 21st century techniques to tell it,” says Charlie Burnell, originating producer of PETER PAN and founder of Threesixty Entertainment.
The show is presented in a tent-like structure that was especially built for this production. It’s located at 4747 Southwest Freeway near US-59 and I-610. Inside, it feels like an intimate theater with a wooden platform in the middle and the seats wrapped around it.
Highlights include flying sequences that are enhanced by a backdrop of 360-degree projection. When Peter Pan leads Wendy, Michael and John to Neverland, they hover over the stage 40 feet in the air while a moving projection of 400 square miles of London surround them, and the audience. From the clouds, they spot Neverland and everyone in the tent goes in for the landing.
“Since the projections of the scenery are behind the audience, it’s fun to break the fourth wall in a subtle way that includes the audience in every second of the show. As an audience member, they are able to be a part of something extremely rare, immersive and theatrical because it really does feel like you are flying with us and sword-fighting with us on the Jolly Roger,” says Sarah Charles, the actress who plays Wendy.
Other popular scenes include the mermaids’ aerial acrobatics act and the Lost Boys’ stunts. “The circus elements we’ve integrated into the show elevates the magical feeling. They’ve been essential to showing character growth. For example, the use of the Chinese Pole as the High Tree during the Lost Boys’ Neverland dance illustrates their youthful and innocent playfulness while showing their incredible agility, strength and camaraderie,” says Ryan Halsaver who plays Starkey the Pirate.
Even with all the flash and glitz, this production preserved classic interactive moments of the play. One famous scene involves Peter Pan and his best friend Tinker Bell, the spunky fairy. Tinker Bell prevents Peter Pan from drinking poison by drinking the poison herself. Peter Pan then asks everyone in the audience to clap their hands if they believe in fairies – the applause, proving their belief in fairies, saves Tinker Bell’s life.
“Everyone has some sort of nostalgic connection with the story of Peter Pan,” says Jessie Sherman who plays Tinker Bell. “If families desire to see this timeless story in an entirely new and innovative way, then I suggest they get themselves to the theater at once. It’s an incredible bonding experience to be immersed in this beautiful story with your loved ones.”