Marcus Center for the Performing Arts
May 13–16, 2010
Reviewed by Hedy Weiss
Marc Petrocci and Valerie Harmon as Peter and Wendy. Photo by Michael S. Levine, Courtesy Milwaukee Ballet
The opening sequence of Peter Pan, Michael Pink’s elaborate new full-length work for Milwaukee Ballet, breaks with traditional tellings of the story in an utterly charming way that immediately reminds you of the choreographer’s British roots.
Pink conjures a parade of prim nannies blithely wheeling their very proper prams into a London park where mischievous children are at play. And if you pay close attention, you also will spot Peter (danced by the feisty, boyish Marc Petrocci, who spins from earth to air with a little nod to all those Billy Elliots out there). From there it’s straight on to the Darling family nursery where Wendy (lovely, subtle dancing by Valerie Harmon) is clearly on the brink of young womanhood, and her two brothers, John and Michael, are engaged in childish playacting and mock swordsmanship. Their parents (Patrick Howell and Raven Wales were expert in a very revealing duet) are preparing to head off to a party. Nana, the dog (Elizabeth Glander) is edgy.
Pink has carefully developed his characters and shaped his three-act ballet—set to Philip Feeney’s original, cinematic-like score—so that each section ends on a high note. At the end of Act I, the Darling children fly off to Never Land with Peter and his wonderfully bossy, self-assured, often volatile fairy accomplice, Tinkerbell (the outstanding Luz San Miguel, by far the strongest dancer here, who nailed her role in every scene). A nearly fatally poisoned Tinkerbell is brought back to life by the audience—who wield little light sticks—at the end of Act II. And things return more or less to normalcy in the Darling household in the finale.
While the Captain Hook character (and his rivalry with Peter) could have been more fully developed, and while Pink missed an opportunity to use dance to fully explore the mismatched emotional levels of Wendy and Peter, he has crafted functional choreography well-suited to the talents of the company’s corps dancers who play the pirates (Ryan Martin was a first-rate drunken Smee), the Lost Boys of Never Land, and the Indian Braves.
Five years in the making, with lavish scenery and costumes (and an alligator puppet that swivels through the orchestra pit to delighted laughter from the audience), Peter Pan is bound to be a hugely popular addition to Milwaukee Ballet’s repertoire, and a work that should attract a family audience for years to come.