A new version of J. M. Barrieâ€™s Peter Pan, an adaptation by Tanya Ronder with original music by Benjamin Wallfisch, is touring the country and recently set up tent in Orange County. Previous incarnations include the delightful and familiar cartoon version by Disney and the stage musical by Mark Charlap, Jule Stine, Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden, and Adolf Green. Barrie himself wrote the play of Peter Pan in 1904 and later made a novel of it called Peter and Wendy. Even Leonard Bernstein tried his hand at musicalizing it in a seldom seen version that played in Santa Barbara not so long ago.
Ms. Ronderâ€™s version is pretty close to Barrieâ€™s. Barrie would probably have loved the new high-tech design because it makes the story all the more magical. I think that the version we are seeing in Orange County is more like the British pantomime (panto) version, only using a 3D projection design. The newest endeavor is performed in a tent with a 360-degree screen on which 3D images, designed by William Dudley, are projected so we really get to see Wendy, Peter and the gang fly over London in a realistic manner and later see the sea around the island of Neverland in its underwater splendor.
This 3D landscape is the most awe-inspiring aspect of the show. Some of the props are also quite inventive, for instance using hangers and odds and ends one might find in a childâ€™s closet to make the dreaded crocodile. The shaggy dog is done by a puppet and a visible puppeteer, while the croc is maneuvered his way around the stage by two puppeteers riding recumbent bicycles. The flying is less impressive, with very visible wires despite the clothes hangers added to make the design correspond to other parts of the set.