Truly joyful yet weary from the experience of raising two toddlers close in age, Chicago actress and acclaimed cabaret performer Alanda Coon states one warm Monday afternoon, “I’m just trying to enjoy this time as much as I can. I know I am going to miss it when they’re older.” This fairly universal mother’s statement, of course, implies that young ones will eventually mature and blossom into adulthood. Meanwhile, miles away from Coon’s far north side home, everyone’s favorite eternal child, Peter Pan, is being given vibrant life by threesixty entertainment via an opulent CGI laden tent in the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center North on Chicago Avenue.
Taking its focus from the classic J M Barrie original, as opposed to the slightly sanitized 1954 musical version with its ecstatic Betty Comden songs, Tanya Ronder’s probing adaptation features the anticipated atmospherics: the chattering antics of Tinker Bell, the boisterous activities of the Lost Boys and the comical villainy of Captain Hook. Yet, Ronder’s vision also includes a determined sexuality highlighted by heroine Wendy Darling’s desire to make a boyfriend out of the confused Peter. Rescued maiden Tiger Lily’s aggressive dance of thanks for Pan is, also, fraught with unacknowledged desires and Pan, himself, ultimately comes off as more angry than puckish, an authority forsaking rebel in green tights as opposed to leather.
Still, with its multiple scenes involving hydraulic flights of fancy, an amazing puppeteer operated crocodile and a deliciously outrageous Hook (played with zeal by Steven Pacey), there is much for both parents and children to enjoy here. Yet, Emily Yetter’s joyous athleticism as Tinker Bell, Ciaran Joyce’s pouting dynamism as Peter and the happy grace Evelyn Hoskin displays as Wendy can’t completely hide this show’s slightly haunting message. Here we are reminded that being forever young at heart is an attribute, but being forever a child is a frighteningly lonely experience, after all.
Peter Pan runs at the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center North, 650 W. Chicago Avenue, through July 19. Tickets run from $25 – $75 and can be purchased at www.broadwayinchicago.com, www.peterpantheshow.com or by calling 888-PPANTIX.”