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|Visually stunning take on ‘Peter Pan’ not just for kids|
|Written by Jim Farmer|
|Friday, 04 February 2011 00:00|
In an era where Cirque du Soleil productions wow audiences around the globe, it takes more than ever to impress theater-goers. The producers of the new touring version of “Peter Pan” have a catch – the world’s first 360-degree CGI theater. The production, now in Atlanta, features at least two gay performers in its large cast.
Atlanta is one of only three cities scheduled for the U.S. tour and the first outside of California. This production follows the traditional J.M. Barrie plot with characters such as Wendy, Tinkerbell, Captain Hook and of course Peter Pan, the boy who doesn’t want to grow up. Ian Street plays Curly, one of the Lost Boys, while Josh Swales is Starkey, one of the pirates.
The big difference here is that instead of a traditional stage, “Peter Pan” takes place in a tent, in an “in the round” setting. The interior of the tent is lit up with more than 15,000 square feet of hi-resolution video. That is three times the size of IMAX screens. It’s a terrific show visually, making audience members feel as if they are flying with the characters to Neverland.
The show also features mermaids and a scene-stealing pantomimed alligator.
Street feels audiences can’t imagine what they are going to experience until they are inside. He has been pleased with the reaction thus far, and especially likes the fact that American audiences are more vocal in their reactions than in England, where the production originated.
“I love vocal audiences,” he says. “It’s great to hear their laughter, their surprise. I think there is definitely a wow factor to this, especially the flying sequences.”
According to Swales, this is not a cutesy, only-for-kids take, however.
“I think this is much darker than audiences are used to seeing,” he says. “It’s not a Disney, light version. It is pretty faithful to the Barrie version.”
Swales’ Starkey is not a cuddly man.
“He is a fighter, sadistic and ruthless,” says Swales. “He is not a nice person. He has a passion to kill,” as does his leader, Captain Hook.
For Street, his Curly is looking for a maternal figure as are all the Lost Boys.
“He is a bit of a dreamer,” Street says. “All the boys miss their mother and are longing for someone to take her place. Curly has his own idea of what a mother is.”
The cast of “Peter Pan” incorporates members of the original London production with American actors. Street is English while Swales is half English and half Australian.
Both men feel there is definitely a gay vibe to the production.
“There is definitely a whimsical, camp side to Neverland,” Swales says. “The pirates are slightly over-exaggerated, too. To me, I think Captain Hook is actually slightly bipolar.”
Street says this production brings back childhood memories.
“We all know and love the story, and who doesn’t like going back to their childhood?” he says. “As well, this Tinkerbell has some attitude and oomph.”
“Peter Pan” set up shop for two weeks of previews before officially opening last weekend. Thus far, Street feels there have been a lot more children at the Atlanta run than in California, but notes that it seems to be a healthy mix of adults bringing their family and those not.
Although he has never had the chance to play a gay character onstage, Swales says a character’s sexual orientation doesn’t inform his choices.
“I last did ‘Aida’ as Radames,” he says. “I think we are finally getting to a stage where we don’t have to be pigeonholed into playing stereotypical roles. I can play a straight love interest. That is my job. We are actors.”
Street says he enjoys seeing gay characters onstage, but wishes more were outside of gay-themed shows.
Sometimes it’s nice to see gay people in a straight play, just being who they are,” he says.
Both actors will finish the Atlanta gig and then contemplate continuing with the tour.
Top photo: Hook (Darrell Brockis) and Peter (Ciaran Joyce)face off in the CGI-rich world of ‘Peter Pan’ (by Ed Krieger)
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