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Monday, May 17, 2010

Milwaukee Ballet’s Magical ‘Peter Pan’

Dance Review

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Milwaukee Ballet’s new Peter Pan is visually and aurally ravishing. The bedrock of the work is Philip Feeney’s thrilling score, commissioned by the company for this world premiere and triumphantly performed by the Ballet Orchestra and the Milwaukee Children’s Choir under conductor Pasquale Laurino. In the music as in the dancing, ever more wonderful adventures tumble head over heels in a seamless flow.

Rick Graham’s break-apart set and David Grill’s chiaroscuro lighting worked together to breathtaking effect. A stroll in staid Kensington Gardens in 1941 ended with London blackening at the sound of air raid sirens. This dissolved into the pretty nursery of a bourgeois household, then gave way to night and clouds as Peter and the children flew past St. Paul’s and Big Ben toward the glowing star, and on to the spooky, biomorphic, fantastically twisted world of Neverland with its pirate ship, watery lagoon and underclass, underground hide-out. The slow, horizontal movement of scenery stood in counterpoint to the aerial swoops of the flying dancers. Judanna Lynn’s costumes were brilliant in color and character detail, and should be displayed in a museum rather than left in storage till this show is revived, as it surely will be. It could easily alternate with The Nutcracker as Milwaukee Ballet’s annual family holiday event.

Marc Petrocci is a Pan for the ages. I saw the show twice to catch both casts, and was surprised and pleased to see him dance again, with even greater abandon, on the second night. Clearly, this role belongs to him. Likewise, I can’t imagine a more entertaining or dazzling Tinkerbell than Luz San Miguel. As John and Michael, Petr Zahradnicek and Nicole Teague were utterly endearing. Better to attend twice than have to choose between the superb performers cast as Hook, Wendy, Tiger Lily and Mrs. Darling. Some of the most touching moments belonged to Elizabeth Glander in her vivid pantomime as the dog Nana.

It’s all Michael Pink’s doing, a five-year labor. Like J.M. Barrie, whose 1904 play is the model, he’s brought a dense, weird, prepubescent world to delirious life. The air raid sirens and loud ticking of the devouring clock inside both crocodile and nursery speak of knowledge to come, but the bulk of this action-adventure fantasy holds adulthood defiantly at bay. The loneliness of Pan’s eternal childhood and the inevitable end of innocence for the others are only evident upon reflection.

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