Photo by Terry Shapiro, courtesy of Colorado Ballet

Neverland, an island not exactly in the sky, but a place impossible to get to without fairy dust and youth. We’ve been wistfully dreaming of J. M. Barrie’s secret escape for generations, envisioning swimming with the mermaids, getting into mischief with the Lost Boys and going head to head with smarmy pirates. This season, the Colorado Ballet brought Neverland to Denver with Peter Pan.

From the beginning of the performance, children young and old are on mischievous Peter’s side (played by Adam Still) as he lives only in the Darling children’s imagination–or so they think. While Wendy, John and Michael (played by Shelby Dyer, Sean Omandam and Casey Dalton) play house or sword fight, Peter floats outside the nursery window listening to Wendy’s  stories. One night, while the children are fast asleep, Peter is nearly caught by Mrs. Darling (Maria Mosina). The ensuing chase is spectacularly choreographed, with Pan leaping from the top of Nana’s dog house to fire place mantle and over the sleeping childrens’ beds, his toes skimming the bed clothes. The result is a captured shadow that must be recovered by Peter with the help of a lively Tinker Bell (Sharon Wehner). Little Tink flits around the stage in her twinkling lights-and-bells-bedecked costume as easily as dandelion fluff in the wind, but with enough sass, spunk and stage presence to make up for what she lacks in body mass. She singlehandedly showed me that there is nothing more effective than an angry fairy stomping around in toe shoes.

Peter’s Shadow, played by Gregory DeSantis, proves to be just as sneaky as he is and their symmetrical duet is one of my favorite parts. The end of Act I got the audience in a rather giddy mood when Pan took the Darling crew up and out through their nursery window, second to the right and straight on ’til morning, passing over rooftops while the clouds swirl around them.

In Act II we find ourselves in the midst of Neverland, with Captain Hook (Alexei Tyuokov makes the man, as well as Mr. Darling, extremely likeable) and his crew, including Smee. Jesse Marks turns Smee into a surprisingly graceful drunk. Their flat-footed, slightly slapstick-y (in a good way) group dances contrast wonderfully with the strong, sensuous dancing of Tiger Lilly (played by the lovely Asuka Sasaki) and her Indian Braves, with whom they frequently share the stage. The Braves’ flawless six-pack revealing costumes, complete with beautiful Indian blankets, combined with, in my opinion, some of the best music in the whole ballet, makes this group my favorite of Act II. Coming in close second is an appearance by Hook’s nemesis, the Crocodile, who swoops through the orchestra pit, tick-tocking away. Oh, and I almost forgot. Another crowd pleasing moment comes when poor Tink’s lights flicker out after she saves Pan from poison and we all get out our fairy lights that were handed to us at the door. Our lights light up, row by row, and sweep across the balconies until our Tinker Bell is with us once more.

Act III is, of course, when Peter rescues all those who have been captured by Captain Hook. Peter assumes the disguise of Wendy and flirts shamelessly with Hook as a distraction, while the Lost Boys, Indian Braves and the Darlings prepare for battle. The fight scenes throughout are magical indeed. At one point, Pan leaps over Hook’s jab and, for a moment, is poised on the tip of his sword.

At last, Hook and his crew are left to their crocodile-y fate, while Wendy makes like a mama and ushers the Darling boys (as well as some Lost ones) home. All is well as the children (the adult ones, too) come to terms with growing up, so long as they can live vicariously through those who never do. The curtain drops on the nursery, full of dancing and storytelling, with Peter Pan perched above them all, ready to make mischief, should the occasion call for it.

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