Peter Pan flies into Dubai
Theatre, illusion, circus and mind-blowing hi-tech acts combine to wow Dubai audiences with the tale of Peter Pan, says Tessy Koshy
Poised on top of a fantastic mountain, dressed in a bright green costume with painted elf-like ears, Sandor Sturbl looks down on a blue sea six metres below. His large brown kohl-lined eyes show no fear as he surveys the water.
There is a soft whoosh and Sandor, a 28-year-old Dutchman who portrays the role of Peter Pan in Peter Pan The Never Ending Story, soars into the air like a bird. Twisting and twirling mid-air, he weaves magic as the dreamy-eyed audience watches his antics open-mouthed because there are no harnesses or wires to keep the boy from Neverland up in the air.
In the stage adaptation of Scottish novelist and playwright JM Barrie’s classic, Sandor plays a pivotal role in transporting the audience to a modern Neverland, thanks to a giant diesel turbine engine that blows air at the speed of 250km per hour.
“The audience is always bowled over by that stunt. It’s one of the many things they won’t forget when they leave the show,” Sandor tells Friday ahead of the debut in Dubai.
After having wowed spectators in Belgium, the UK and the Netherlands, the hi-tech fantasy adventure will be staged from March 5 to 13 at the DubaiWorld Trade Centre.
The show, described as an arena spectacle, brings together a mixture of theatre, illusion, circus and special effects. More than 50 dancers, stuntmen, acrobats, magicians and actors from 10 countries will perform.
“It’s not a play, it’s not a musical, it is an arena adventure,” says Sandor.
“It’s like watching a movie with the most amazing stunts in 3D combined with the most modern flying techniques, special effects and mapping that will make audiences believe that they are in Neverland. Peter Pan flying without wires will of course be the most stunning scene.”
At the heart of this electrifying show is the timeless story of Peter Pan, a mischievous boy who can fly and who never grows up. He has adventures on the small island of Neverland as the leader of his gang. Keeping him company are the Darling children – Wendy, Michael and John – along with the Lost Boys. The children play with mermaids, fairies and Red Indians – and meet the evil Captain Hook.
“Each one of us would want to escape to a Neverland, a place with a touch of innocence and a sense of wonder, and the show totally supports that idea,” says 22-year-old Lilly-Jane Young, who plays Wendy.
For Lilly-Jane, the role was a dream come true. The Scottish actress, who began her theatrical career at 15 at The Dance School of Scotland, was introduced to the tale of Peter Pan by her grandfather at a young age.
“I felt I was Wendy and would walk around in my Wendy dress every day believing I could fly and looking for the little boy from Neverland,” she says. “When I found out about this project I knew I had to be a part of it.”
Like Sandor, Lilly-Jane’s role also involves singing, dancing and
flying on a harness. She says the show involves a lot of teamwork and rehearsals. “On a typical show day we do lengthy warm-ups and always test our technical stunts.”
Lebanese superstar Myriam Fares will enact the role of Tinker Bell on the opening night in Dubai; in the rest of the shows her role will be played by Silvy de Bie, from Belgium.
To recreate the magic and wonder of the story, the producers of the show have used classical scenery techniques in combination with the most modern projection and sound effects to make it an unforgettable and believable fairy tale.
On the 25-metre-diameter stage, 140 moving fixtures are used and the show is told on a giant bookshelf. In the background, walls, forests and buildings dissolve, disappear and reappear. Waterfalls cascade and rivers wind across the stage. There are shooting stars, dreamy London rooftop scenes with Lost Boys bouncing and somersaulting through the air at great heights.
The show was created by leading Belgian producer Geert Allaert and
the creative team at Music Hall Belgium, a noted organiser of musicals. It is directed by Luc Petit, who collaborated with Franco Dragone on Cirque du Soleil for 10 years and was the man who created the opening ceremony at Euro 2000. Allaert’s credits range from Cats and Les Misérables and the choreography is by classically trained ex-ballet dancer Martino Muller from Switzerland.
The show’s score has 16 tracks from artists such as Robbie Williams and Rod Stewart, put together by musical director Matt Dunkley, who has to his credit the soundtrack of Oscarwinning movie Moulin Rouge!.
The actors tell the story through songs and dance as the only dialogue comes from the character Tinker Bell.
“The show is really exhausting, I cover a lot of distance running up and down the stage,” says Sandor, who has three solo songs and two duets with Wendy. “Combine that with all the singing – it is really demanding.”
In the solos he sings Angels by Robbie Williams, Dreamer by Supertramp and In the Shadows by The Rasmus. A graduate in music theatre from the Fontys School of Fine and Performing Arts in Tilburg, the Netherlands, Sandor realised his
‘The last thing you need is fear. Let’s be honest; what would a Peter Pan be with a fear of flying?’
calling for stage at the age of 18. He has performed in several productions before Peter Pan, such as We Will Rock You and Robin Hood. No doubt the most challenging part about playing Peter Pan is flying without a harness. Sandor says he had to rehearse for years to get it right. But doesn’t he get any jitters before the final act? “The last thing you need is fear. Let’s be honest; what would a Peter Pan be with a fear of flying?” he asks nonchalantly.
The two-hour show is divided into two acts of one hour each and took two years in the making. After successful performances in the UK’s Wembley Arena and Scotland’s The Hydro during Christmas 2013, Lilly-Jane is looking forward to Dubai.
“I can’t wait to see this beautiful city,” she says. “I have heard so many wonderful things.”
With such accomplished actors, spectators are in for a never-seenbefore experience that comes with a huge dash of magic.
Maybe Barrie had it right when he said: “All the world is made of faith and trust and pixie dust.”
It’s not a play, it’s not a musical – it’s an arena adventure!
No strings attached, not for Peter Pan
A spectacle of song and dance that will take your breath away
Let us take you to Neverland, via the wonders of modern technology
The story of Peter Pan is told through music and dance