As you enter the Arden Theatre, you’ll probably start to wonder what a campfire has to do with Peter Pan. This adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s classic tale takes on a modern twist, with a lot of familiar faces.
We attended Peter Pan on a Saturday afternoon. The show starts with the family (adult Wendy and her three kids) on a camping trip. The grassy campsite has an old trailer in the background, as well as a bathroom stall. You'll see it all as you walk into the theater, but the elements will change throughout the show. The modern twist was met with delight, as the kids still understood the story.
When we looked up, there was a system of ropes, bridges and ziplines, which Peter and company used to “fly.” Kids really got a kick out of the action in the show, which was a pleasant surprise in a smaller theater. My 5-year-old nephew really loved how the actors treated Peter’s shadow. When Wendy “sewed” it to Peter, there was a quick change in the lighting and suddenly we were all celebrating Peter’s shadow along with him.
Another great part of the show was the openings in the stage floor. The action continued as the actors were able to utilize that space to change into costume, surprise the kids, and switch up the stage. We were back and forth between the campgrounds, Neverland, and the pirate ship, but it was never confusing.
Photo of Wendy and Peter courtesy of Mark Garvin.
The runtime was just under two hours, including a 15-minute intermission. The show did not seem long, but younger kids started getting restless during the second half. Most of the kids there were around six or seven. Due to the layout of the theater, it may be difficult to exit during the show depending on your seat.
There are a few elements that might be surprising to younger children. First, Captain Hook was portrayed by a bald actress, Catherine Slusar, who explained after the show that she is bald due to a recent round of chemotherapy. This was met with applause, however many children were whispering with questions. Next, there were some potential sensory challenges. At one point in the show, the entire stage went dark, without even a nightlight. My nephew was startled, and I felt like the darkness lasted a bit too long. During Peter’s “fight” with Captain Hook, there was a simulation of a bomb going off, which was also a bit startling. For the young ones, it's also worth noting that there are a couple of mentions of killing in the show. On the other hand, there were no weapons, which was a pleasant surprise. Instead of props, the use of weapons were left up to the imagination.
Aside from all of the flying action and battle scenes, the kids really loved the chance to participate. When Tinker Bell drinks the poison meant for Peter, he asks the audience to clap their hands if they believe in fairies. The kids (and adults) were happy to bring Tink back to life.
After each performance, the cast stayed on stage for a post-show Q+A session where kids asked questions about the show. Many kids asked about how the theater elements worked, which the actors were happy to reenact. It’s not required to stick around, so you can slip out if your kids are ready to go. However, kids are also welcome to take photos and meet the actors in the lobby after the show.
Peter Pan runs on the mainstage at The Arden Theatre through January 28, 2018. Tickets range from $18 to $34 and can be purchased online.