Tom Strini
The Ballet’s Peter Pan

Flying high, keeping the kids up late

By - May 14th, 2010 01:09 am
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How could it miss?

Flying, swordplay, kids, pirates… the Milwaukee Ballet’s Peter Pan has it all, and artistic director Michael Pink and his dancers make the most of it.

Dancers Marc Petrocci, as Peter Pan, and Valerie Harmon, as Wendy. Milwaukee Ballet photo Michael S. Levine.

The flying sequences are inventive and well-integrated with the plot and the dancing. They don’t read as tricks, but as part of the story. Marc Petrocci, as Pan, looks especially comfortable in the air. He defines clear shapes and creates the illusion of generating thrust. He rarely appears to be yanked around by cables, as of course he is.

Petrocci is just as much Peter Pan when his feet are on the ground. He’s an excellent Pan for all the same things that made him an excellent Puck in Bruce Wells’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Petrocci is wonderfully gymnastic. His springy legs, musical flex through his torso, speed and quickness and ability to arrest that speed on a dime make him look like some sort of otherworldly sprite. He is a witty dancer, too, great with a facial take and the ability to appear comically overbalanced when in fact he is totally under control.

Michael Linsmeier will dance the title role Friday and Sunday. Thursday, he portrayed Pan’s shadow and matched his style exactly, which suggests that fans who miss Petrocci won’t be cheated.

The cleverly staged me-and-my-shadow scene begins with Pan struggling to remove his contrary shadow, made of stretchy black fabric, from a drawer. It becomes caught on the leg of the bed, disappears under the bed, and presto, out pops Linsmeier. Nifty.

Clever staging abounds in this show, due to Rick Graham’s scenic design and what Pink did with it. The pirate ship comes apart in sections to show what’s going on below decks. Beautiful cutouts of London landmarks pass beneath Pan and the Darling siblings as they fly to Neverland. The Crocodile with the ticking clock is a coup d’theater that I won’t give away here. And Pink ingeniously involved the many kids in the audience in reviving the poisoned Tinkerbell, and that got Uihlein Hall rocking.

Luz San Miguel flies without wires, as Tinkerbell. Michael S. Levine photo.

He did not neglect the dancing. A troupe of fetching female Indian braves battle the pirates in intricate, amusing figure dances. Hook, brilliantly portrayed by Patrick Howell, shows a fondness for dainty Baroque steps. Pink gave Luz San Miguel’s Tinkerbell flurry after flurry of speedy steps, and she sparkled.

Philip Feeney’s music, commissioned for the ballet, is bright and smart and specific in the way of John Williams’ movie scores. It fit the dramatic moments; when Hook danced his Baroque numbers, for example, he did it to harpsichord, which sounds nowhere else in the piece. This score is very good for dancing, with plenty of impetus in spring-loaded syncopation. The dancers responded to it physically. The music, which I think would be uninteresting on its own, energizes the ballet. The Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, under Pasquale Laurino, played it remarkably well.

Pink squeezed a lot of sumptuousness out of a modest budget. Peter Pan looks like a million bucks, but cost a fraction of that. David Grill’s beautiful and richly varied lighting helps a lot, as do Judanna Lynn’s costumes. I liked the daring sexiness Lynn brought to the Indian maids, who are to Peter Pan what the Arabian is to The Nutcracker.

Like The Nutcracker, Peter Pan ought to earn significant revenue for the Milwaukee Ballet over the years. The opening night crowd went crazy for it. It’s a smart, funny, well-crafted crowd pleaser.

Peter Pan runs through Sunday at Marcus Center Uihlein Hall. All performances are sold out.

To read the preview story, click here.

Categories: Dance

0 thoughts on “The Ballet’s Peter Pan: Flying high, keeping the kids up late”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the review! My daughter saw it yesterday with her school, and now regrets telling me to give her ticket to one of my son’s friends (“because I won’t need to see it twice”). She wants to see it twice, and this is a girl who’s hit a cynical age. I can’t wait to take the boys tonight, and I wish I could afford to take her again.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi vron, thanks for the comment. It’s a great show. — Tom

  3. Anonymous says:

    Tom: Thanks for the review. I am glad you found a home at Third Coast Digest. I am going to tonight’s performance and can’t wait. Milwaukee should be very proud of the Milwaukee Ballet, especially under Michael Pink’s artistic direction. Peter Pan is the type of cultural asset that will bring attention to our vibrant arts scene, especially as it is performed by ballet companies in other cities, and that is assured if it can fill the house. In the past, you have been critical of some of Michael Pink’s modern story ballets such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame in which, in your view, the dramatic acting outweighed the dancing. I thought that was because you were a bit of a snob for the classics. What sets Michael’s Peter Pan apart for you compared to Michael’s other works?

  4. Anonymous says:

    It was a magical performance. I’m still energized by the wonderful performance. A special moment came when tinkerbell was revived and the smiling faces of the elderly group I sit with were illuminated by the light that appeared all over the theatre. It demonstrated how we all were completely engaged in the story, enjoying the innocent pleasure of a Peter Pan so well told.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Rick Graham’s set was a wonder to behold. It was sculpture that moved and changed with elegance. I saw it it the white maquette stage, the painted maquette, and now full size. It held its own with this ballet. The whole was great.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all than criticize bad components. Which is apparently the case here.

  7. Anonymous says:

    We had to change our tickets to Friday performance and I was unhappy about missing Marc Petrocci’s performance; however, sadness turned to joy when Michael Pink announced that Marc would be dancing in place of Linsmeier. It was all I had expected it to be. The house may have been sold out, but there were some empty seats near us on the main floor. Your review is quite accurate.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for your comments, everyone.
    MBCpatron, you’re right, Hunchback annoyed me, so overwrought, so little dancing. But I’ve always loved Michael’s Nutcracker, which moves the story along in a whirl of dance. Pan is very much like that.

    OK,Choir Crone, we’re waiting: If you saw bad components the rest of us missed, we want your list.

    –Strini

  9. Anonymous says:

    Karri and I reveled in the performance. Two intermissions made for a long performance that can use some paring when performed by other companies. Regardless, I am proud to have the Milwaukee Ballet in our Great State.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Correction, the gifted and talented understudy, Barry Molina, actually took Michael Linsmeier’s place and performed Peter Pan’s Shadow. At only 19 years of age, and after 14 years of ballet training under the exceptional ballet instructors at several ballet schools, including the St. Croix Ballet, the Academy of Russian Ballet, and the Continental Ballet in Minnesota, and the School of American Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre in New York, Barry’s tenacity and hard work spectacularly outshines in the grace and beauty that he brings to every performance. Please give credit where credit is due. Thank you.

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