Threesixty Entertainment's 'Peter Pan' in panorama

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For a family-friendly spectacle that promotes the value of faith, "Peter Pan," is presented by Herrick Entertainment and Threesixty Entertainment at Tysons Corner through Aug. 16. Directed by London's own Thom Southerland, "Peter Pan" enchants the audience with its high-tech theater-in-the-round and energetic performances from the entire cast.

The show's first standout feature is its environment. "Peter Pan" takes place in a temperature-controlled tent large enough to accommodate nearly 1,500 audience members. The stage is a huge cylinder surrounded by coliseum-style seating. The stage even flips over and features trap doors from which actors pop in and out.

Adding a cinematic quality to the production, scenery is not painted but projected on the ceiling and the walls above the seating. Instead of large velvet curtains going up when the show begins, projections of red curtains "open" from the ceiling. The graphics are stunning, taking the audience from Edwardian London to Neverland's jungle and surrounding ocean as the story necessitates.

Threesixty used the same kind of immersive environment for its previous show, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," which premiered in London in 2012. The company won a British startup competition for its unique format and emphasis on children's classics in 2009.

But even more impressive than Threesixty's patented environment is the show's physical theater, from mesmerizing mermaid acrobatics to an exquisite crocodile puppet. Of course, it wouldn't be Neverland without the magic of human flight, so Peter (Dan Rosales), Wendy (Sarah Charles), John Darling (John Alati), Michael Darling (Scott Weston) and Tinkerbell (Jessie Sherman) spend a good deal of time swirling overhead in harnesses, eliciting "oohs" and "ahs" from children and adults alike.

Though not a musical, the production integrates music and highly choreographed staging. Even when the actors are not technically dancing, they give the impression they are. On that note, a slight warning to parents: Tiger Lily (Porsha Putney) performs a beautiful solo dance that may be a tad too seductive for small children.

What seems to be missing from this interpretation of "Peter Pan" is the emotional draw of the original tale. You don't feel Peter's disappointment when he mentions returning to his parents' home to find they have a new baby. You don't feel Wendy's heartbreak when she learns her love for Peter is unrequited. There's such an emphasis on the spectacle that the story loses some of its power, especially during the rare instance when the sound effects and music drown out the dialogue. For that reason, it seems the show is best suited to an audience already familiar with the tale. That way, when Tinkerbell selflessly drinks the poison to save Peter, the audience will be that much more invested in chanting, "I believe in fairies," at Peter's cue. Their faith and understanding will be that much stronger, and Tinkerbell's sacrifice will be that much more meaningful.

Threesixty's "Peter Pan" premiered in Kensington Gardens, London, where J.M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up in 1904. Next, the show will hit Houston starting Sept. 9 before moving on to Dallas Nov. 11.

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015