No matter how many Peter Pans you’ve seen, you’ve never seen a Peter Pan nearly as thrilling as threesixty’s Peter Pan. Its producers tout the production’s “500 tons of tent and equipment, 100 cast and crew, and 400 square miles of computer generated imagery on a screen the size of 3 IMAX theaters.” Previous reviewers have called it “spectacular,” “thrilling,” “breathtaking,” “joyous,” “mesmerizing,” and “magical.” It’s all of this, and laugh-out-loud funny to boot.

So what, you may be asking, does this have that other Peter Pans have not?

Start with its venue, a tent (actually more like a huge portable theater-in-the-round) that has traveled over 6000 miles from Kensington Gardens, London, to Costa Mesa, Orange County, where it’s been installed smack dab between the Orange County Performing Arts Center and the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Then there’s the theater’s wrap-around ceiling, which turns into that humongous 360-degree movie screen and has the audience soaring above London and Neverland along with Peter, Michael, John, and Wendy. Adaptor Tanya Ronder’s script manages to stick close to J. M. Barrie’s original yet be bright and funny enough to earn laughs from even the stodgiest audience members. The production’s musical soundtrack, composed and conducted by Benjamin Wallfisch, has the excitement and grandeur of the best of John Williams. On a more human note, a cast almost entirely imported from London (in and of itself an event) breathes energy, fun, and fresh new life into a story many of us have seen or heard more times than we could possibly count.


But most of all there’s the flying—magically choreographed by Fleur Darkin—flying that makes Mary Martin’s and Cathy Rigby’s look like just so much swinging back and forth at the end of a rope. Peter, the Darlings, and Tinker Bell actually soar far above the heads of the audience, even executing aerial somersaults when the fancy takes them. This virtual human flight and the surrounding animated images combine to create some of the most breathtaking effects you’re likely ever to have seen in a legitimate theater.

Top marks go to director Ben Harrison for insuring that this Peter keeps its audience of kids, teens, young and older singles, parents, and grandparents alike entertained from start to finish, and to set, costume, and 3D projection designer William Dudley for creating the real-and-virtual world in which the entire production comes to life.

Veteran British stage and screen actor Jonathan Hyde (Titanic, The Mummy, Jumanji) is one of the most deliciously, delightfully villainous Hooks ever (and as theatrical tradition dictates, he doubles amusingly as Mr. Darling). As for Peter, theatrical tradition be damned. This young Master Pan is no middle-aged actress with a crewcut but a strapping, shirtless, curly-haired, utterly winning English lad named Nate Fallows, a young actor you’re sure to be hearing much more from.


It’s easy to buy 22-year-old Fallows as half that age because the entire brood of Darlings and Lost Boys are played by actors who appear to be in their early twenties, and a terrific lot of young performers they are: Abby Ford (Wendy), Arthur Wilson (John), David Poyner (Michael), and the feisty foursome of Ciaran Joyce (Tootles), understudy Zoot Lynam (Nibs), Ian Street (Curly), and Lee Turnbull (Slightly).

Kids and adults are sure to fall in love with Basque charmer Itxaso Moreno, the cutest, sauciest Tink ever. Scotsman Antony Strachan makes for a delightful Smee. Shannon Warrick is a warm and wonderful Mrs. Darling, Rain Anya and Sarah Bebe Holmes a graceful and gravity-defying pair of aerialist mermaids, and Heidi Buehler a cute and ever-so-limber Tigerlily. Lead puppeteer Christopher Keller manipulates Nana, Ostrich, Illusion, and Crocodile to kids’ and adults’ delight.

Completing the sensational cast (at the performance reviewed) are Darrell Brockis, Beth Triffon, James Nieb, Brad E. Smith, Justin Torres, and Mauricio Villalobos.

Top marks go to Gregory Clarke (sound design), Mark Henderson (lighting design), Nicholas Hall (fight direction), Sue Buckmaster (puppetry direction), Paul Kieve (illusions), Duncan Wisbey (music director), and Freedom Flying (flying consultant).

As word of mouth spreads during the days to come, threesixty’s Peter Pan is likely to be one of the season’s hottest theatrical events, and since the Orange County run (through November 21) is its only Southern California engagement, Angelinos will surely be driving down to Costa Mesa in droves. If they’re anything like this reviewer, they’ll be glad indeed to have made the trek.

Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.
–Steven Stanley
October 6, 2010
Photos: Kevin Berne

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