Review: ‘Peter Pan’ a mid-summer’s delight

Aug. 10, 2014 | 0 Comments

REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com

The flying is graceful and the dancing by the principals superb in Ballet Hawaii’s summer production of “Peter Pan.” Created and choreographed as ballet by Septime Webre, it retells the familiar story of the boy who wouldn’t grow up in fresh and entertaining style.

The Crocodile (Derek Daniels) menaces Captain Hook (Luis Torres) in "Peter Pan." (Cindy Ellen Russell / crussell@staradvertiser.com)

‘PETER PAN’

Presented by Ballet Hawaii

» Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall, 777 Ward Ave.
» When: 2 p.m. Sunday
» Cost: $35-$99
» Info: (866) 448-7849 or www.ticketmaster.com

Take note, Honolulu: There is only one more chance to see this mid-summer’s delight — Sunday at 2 p.m. It is an opportunity that should not be missed. Webre’s “Peter Pan” is great contemporary ballet but it entertains with comedy and athletic prowess as well as dance.

Jonathan Jordan (Peter Pan), Maki Onuki (Wendy Darling) and Luis R. Torres (Captain Hook) are mesmerizing in the starring roles. Jordan is much more muscular and masculine than the Peter Pan we know from the classic Disney film, yet personifies the same spectrum of mercurial boyish emotions — he struts, he poses, he sulks and pouts. And can he dance? Believe it! Jordan gets a lot of altitude and flight time over the stage even without his Flying by Foy harness.

Onuki is an adorable, instantly engaging heroine. Her expressive acting is as compelling as her exquisite, seemingly weightless dancing. Onuki’s duets with Jordan were beautifully executed on Saturday — they each received the applause they deserved from the opening night audience.

Torres owns several scenes with his expansive eye-catching portrayal of Hook. He makes the most of the comic elements of the role with broad comic acting and demanding physical comedy, but he is every bit as effective when dancing in more conventional ways.

Other key performers also deliver impressive performances. Sona Kharatian (Princess Tiger Lily) earned audience applause in her first showcase number with her “Indian Maidens” in Never Never Land and again in a scene with Torres and the pirates.

Margaret Severin-Hanson (Tinkerbell) had a particularly beautiful showcase moment during one of the transitions between scenes.

Hawaii resident Derek Daniels (Crocodile) was an instant audience favorite as the tick-tocking reptile; Daniels added a touch of Hawaii by using ‘uli’uli (Hawaiian gourd rattles) rather than tambourines in one of the crocodile’s early dance numbers.

Dog owners will appreciate the true-to-life doggie details Marshall Whiteley (Nana, the Dog) includes in his portrayal of the sheep dog; Whiteley also plays one of Hook’s six superbly athletic comical pirates.

Timour Bourtasenkov does double-duty too — he’s seen first as Mr. Darling and later as a pirate. Hawaii has seen Bourtasenkov dance several serious character roles; the role of Mr. Darling gives him a chance to perform as a comic actor as well as a charismatic dancer. He does both quite well.

Jacob Ly (John Darling) and Kane Innis (Michael Darling) add color and character with energetic performances as Wendy’s younger brothers.

Pamela Taylor-Tongg, left, Artistic Director of Ballet Hawaii, celebrated backstage with creator/choregrapher Septime Webre, Maki Onuki (Wendy), Luis R. Torres (Captain Hook) and Jonathan Jordan (Peter Pan) after the opening night performance.

JOHN BERGER / JBERGER@STARADVERTISER.COM

Pamela Taylor-Tongg, left, Artistic Director of Ballet Hawaii, celebrated backstage with Septime Webre, creator/choreographer of “Peter Pan,’ and cast members Maki Onuki (Wendy), Luis R. Torres (Captain Hook) and Jonathan Jordan (Peter Pan) after Saturday’s opening night performance.

Webre’s take on the story accents the brighter facets of J.M. Barrie’s original rather than its darker themes of vanished children, poisoned fairies, murderous plots and malevolent pirates. Hook and his pirates are comical figures rather than menacing child killers — Hook is much more of a fop than a killer, the pirates are brightly dressed bumblers. Even the scene where the pirates kidnap Wendy, her brothers and the Lost Boys is played more as comedy than violent abduction.

Webre also shows his comic imagination with a scene where Peter disguises himself as a nymph to distract Hook and free Tiger Lily; before it’s over, several male characters are dancing the choreography of ballerinas.

Hook also dances two numbers with the Crocodile — one is a parody of the tango with the crocodile leading, the choreography of the second suggests a budding romance between them.

And, for something completely different and scene-stealing, two of Hook’s pirates walk across the stage on their hands.

The sets are gorgeous constructions as well, and the set changes are choreographed to maintain the momentum while the changes are being made.

The only flaw in the show is the needless distraction created by having three of Peter Pan’s six Lost Boys played by women and then dressing the three females in costumes that are significantly different from the costumes worn by the male actors.

We first encounter this odd sextet in a scene that soon involves another group of female dancers who are dressed as women. The result is three groups of people on stage — a group of three people who are recognizable as Lost Boys, and two groups of women who could be anybody (the women in dresses are identified in the playbill as “Ragamuffins”). If it was necessary for women to play three of the Lost Boys roles it would be less distracting for them to wear the same costumes as the male actors.

It’s a needless distraction, but that’s all it is, a distraction. The performances of the stars, the supporting players, and Hook’s pirates and their six “pirate wenches” counterparts, make “Peter Pan” is a mid-summer’s delight for audiences of all ages.

Honolulu is lucky to have it.
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John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at jberger@staradvertiser.com.

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