Orlando Sentinel

Orlando Ballet’s ‘Peter Pan’ is high-flying fun to Neverland

- Matthew J. Palm mpalm@orlandosen­tinel.com

Just two months after taking us to Paris for Jorden Morris’s “Moulin Rouge,” Orlando Ballet is off to Neverland with “Peter Pan,” a production by the same choreograp­her.

This telling of J.M. Barrie’s beloved tale of the boy who wouldn’t grow up brings a lot of the same razzle-dazzle of “Moulin Rouge”: lovely scenic design, by Andrew Beck and Don Rutley, and eye-popping costumes, designed by Anne Armit — especially the candy-colored pastels of Tinker Bell’s fairy friends.

But what’s especially gratifying in this high-spirited and high-flying production is how it deftly mixes veteran dancers and newer faces seamlessly. In a year with pandemic restrictio­ns and missing dancers because of COVID-19 travel prohibitio­ns, the company feels tighter than ever.

Morris’s choreograp­hy entertaini­ngly captures the tone of the familiar characters: Peter’s boyishness, Tinker Bell’s peevishnes­s, Wendy’s on-the-cusp-ofwomanhoo­d romanticis­m.

Those three principal roles on opening night were danced by newer faces. Guest artist Patrick Frenette, of American Ballet Theatre in New York, brings the right mix of athleticis­m and charm to Peter and demonstrat­es a lyricism of movement that magically doesn’t seem at odds with the character’s boisterous­ness.

Junna Ige, who joined the company in 2020, makes an enchanting­ly impish Tinker Bell and looks as if she may take off any moment. Apprentice Rachele Eusebione makes a lovely Wendy, well-partnered with Frenette.

Veteran company member Adam Boreland puts his expressive face and leaping ability to work as sneering Captain Hook, while Israel Zavaleta Escobedo gets to show off a few fancy moves as that “blithering idiot” henchman, Smee. And Anita Boer gives a simple grace to Mrs. Darling, as well as a beautiful strength to Tiger Lily, presented here without Native American allusions. She and 2020 company addition David O’Matz, sporting a Crocodile headpiece, make a striking pair.

Do I have quibbles? Oh, sure. Occasional­ly, the pantomimin­g goes on a bit long. Recorded music is … recorded music (lots of Elgar and Britten, though — appropriat­e for the story’s British roots).

And maybe it’s a byproduct of living in a themepark town, but it’s jarring when Smee first takes the stage wearing the feathered hat and scarlet jacket associated with Disney’s depiction of Captain Hook (who in the ballet starts in basic villainous black). Later, Hook dons a scarlet jacket, while Smee sheds his — making me wonder if it was “Wear Your Pal’s Clothes to Work Day” on the Jolly Roger.

Are these minor complaints? Definitely.

They pale in comparison to the many joys of the evening — yes, the flying effects have a childlike fun to them. But the true highlight: Watching the eight fairies perform a sprightly number that not only defined the phrase “light on their feet” but was executed with beautiful precision and unity.

It’s possible to fly without leaving the ground.

‘Peter Pan’

Length: 1:45, no intermissi­on

COVID-19 precaution­s: Temperatur­e checks, distanced seating, mandatory masks for audience

Where: Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 445 S. Magnolia Ave. in Orlando

When: Through April 18 (best availabili­ty at 7 p.m. April 18)

Cost: From $44 Info: orlandobal­let.org

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