REVIEW: “Peter Pan” – never grow up


Peter Pan ticket

TFM Review: Peter Pan by Sandy da Silva
Photography by: Frida Tan

Second star to the right, and straight on till morning.

Thanks to Ballet Philippines’ newest production of Peter Pan, you won’t have to go that far to experience all the magic of Neverland.

From the opening strains of the overture, as little dots of light are slowly projected onto the curtain, there is unabashed oohing and aahing from the audience. The curtains open on the Darling children’s bedroom and we are introduced to Wendy, John, Michael and their faithful dog Nana. The oversized windows and arches contrast effectively with the children’s beds, immediately drawing you in and giving a sense of grandeur to the stage.

Peter Pan
Principal dancer Marc Cordero plays Peter Pan

Peter Pan and Tinkerbell soon make their entrance as the children are sleeping. The way Peter’s entrance is staged is surprising, as it seems a bit underwhelming. It might be natural to expect a more colorful entrance for our hero, but since he is sneaking into the children’s bedroom, you can easily accept this quiet approach. Tinkerbell, on the other hand, is a delight from the beginning, as she floats down from the rafters draped in, appropriately enough, fairy lights around her body.

(Click here for more details about the show.)

Every story needs a proper villain, and no one could be more villainous than our favorite one-handed pirate, Captain Hook. Hook and his pirates slowly appear out of a dimly lit stage, which is an effective touch that exudes just the right amount of sinister foreboding. But there is no need to fear, as the crew of pirates launches straight into a tango. At one point, Hook is even carried like a showgirl by his crew, which clearly shows that Hook may be Pan’s foil, but this incarnation does not make him any less lovable.

Garry Corpuz as the villanous Captain Hook
Garry Corpuz as the villanous Captain Hook

Edna Vida Froilan’s choreography absolutely shines in this production, evidenced by the contrast in Pan’s and Hook’s movements. Ballet Philippines’ principal dancer, Jean Marc Cordero, plays Peter Pan, and he moves with such unbridled enthusiasm and joy, expressed through his muscular and strong dancing. Garry Corpuz’ Hook meanwhile, moves more sinuously, which successfully conveys his smarmy and oily personality. And how is the crocodile portrayed? As a green-tights-clad and mask-wearing tap dancer no less! The tap dancing is used to great effect to mimic the ticking clock that so terrifies Hook. The crocodile also pops up throughout the show to torment Hook, sometimes from the orchestra pit or peeking from behind the stage curtain.

(READ: Ballet Philippines’ Peter Pan to Soar Again)

The ballet is composed of three acts, with two intervals in between, and the scenes are well-paced, flowing smoothly from one to the next. John Batalla’s lighting design contributes enormously to the production, giving each scene – from the cozy London home of the Darlings, to the ethereal Mermaids’ Lagoon, the colorful Indian Village, and Captain Hook’s ominous ship – a distinct character and atmosphere.

Peter Pan
the beautiful, graceful mermaids

The music comes from the 1954 Original Cast Recording, and though in the beginning it can be quite jarring to hear, it eventually blends in with all the other elements. The recording helps connect the show to its roots and brings a sense of nostalgia to the production. It also adds another layer to the show, as the cast even lip sync to the songs. This makes it a more multi-dimensional performance because the dancers are interpreting the songs in more ways than one.

At the end of Act II, Peter, the Darling Children, the Lost Boys, and the Indians all dance together to celebrate Tiger Lily’s rescue, and the scene perfectly showcases how well the lighting design complements storied National Artist Salvador Bernal’s costume and set design. It’s also another opportunity to highlight Froilan’s less than traditional choreography, as the Indians’ movements are more mechanical and militaristic – which is in sync with their warrior-like personas.

Peter Pan
Peter Pan, Tiger Lily and the Indians, Wendy and The Lost Boys

In fact, nothing about this staging of Peter Pan is conventional. It is an interactive experience, with characters using all the areas of the theater from the pit to the aisles. Artistic Director Paul Alexander Morales is not afraid to stage numbers in front of the drawn curtain, which, when it rises to reveal a new scene, only adds more depth and scale to the set. The dancing is not limited to what one would normally expect from traditional classical ballet. The theater was packed with school children on a field trip when we watched, and it was obvious that the cast made an effort to involve them, and the children reciprocated by being heavily invested in the antics of the characters. Their excitement was palpable throughout the show, which added a lively energy to the proceedings.

Peter Pan
The Indians!

Victor Maguad alternates with Jean Marc Cordero and Cyril Aran Fallar in the role of Peter Pan, and in this particular show he played John Darling. However, even with this relatively smaller role and John’s long nightshirt which obscured his legs and movement, his talent and skill were still in full display. Possibly the only thing you could ask for from this production is more Tinkerbell. It would have been great to see her in an extended solo, which could’ve shown her complicated and feisty personality. Her costume was also a personal favorite, with a flowing twinkly shawl to portray her fairy wings. But this is a slight complaint, if at all, and only goes to show how much you can be drawn into the world of Peter Pan.

Peter Pan
the brilliant cast

Peter Pan is aimed at the whole family, and is the perfect vehicle to get your children interested in ballet. The choreography is not staid or rigid at all, which makes it ideal for any novice to ballet, young or old. Don’t be fooled into thinking that only children will enjoy it either. I can personally attest to the fact that the adults in the audience had as much fun – and possibly more – than the kids in attendance. As Peter was preparing to fly for the first time, the audience’s breathless anticipation was almost audible. It’s definitely worth your time and effort to see this amazing production.

Rita Winder (Wendy) and Jean Marc Cordero (Peter Pan)
Rita Winder (Wendy) and Jean Marc Cordero (Peter Pan)

Christmas is the time to feel like a child again. And for at least two hours, Peter Pan will definitely help you on your way to “never grow up”.

Ballet Philippines’ Peter Pan runs until December 13, 2015 at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo.

Have you seen the show? What did you think?

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