Thursday, December 23, 2010

Peter Pan: More than just digital flying

Last night, I went to see the new "high-tech", threesixty experience of Peter Pan at the Orange County Performing Arts Center with high expectations of amazing digital feats and wonders of how live theater will change in our ever-evolving computerized world. While the show did not dissappoint with the amazing 360-degree video projections of London and Neverland, what I (and my family) remember most are the talents of the actors and actresses, puppeteers and dancers (both on stage and in the air!).

First to take our hearts was Nana the dog played by lead puppeteer Christopher Keller. No high-tech magic here - just good ol' plain human talent. Right away, the audience had to suspend disbelief and use their imagination to immerse themselves into the play. Unlike the movies, where the "strings" are erased on computers, Keller was on stage holding a puppet of Saint Bernard as large as himself. In true support of live theatre, the audience empathized with Nana as she was, unwillingly, sent out of the room.

Next to "pop" out was Tinkerbell (played by Emily Yetter), who at times overshadowed Peter Pan, with her wild, sparkling (and I mean with actual lights!) hair and her crazy jealous antics toward Wendy. She was a free spirit and a breath of fresh air in a play full of planned lines and poses.

And then we were treated to the digital flying, where the actors were suspended from strings and the whole 360-degree screen background moved instead.  Look closely and the computer-generated graphics felt like original game Myst, but the overall effect was breath-taking. Once we "landed" in Neverland, the trees in the background actually swayed! The transitions in the screens coordinated with actors movements would create scene changes in which flying would become swimming underwater!

Speaking of underwater scenes, the mermaids, Rain Anya and Sarah Bebe Holmes of the aerial theatre company The Paper Doll Milita, were as captivating as sirens with their hypnotic "dancing". Oh and speaking of dancing, Tiger Lily's "appreciation" dance to Peter Pan was memorable as well, with a mix of modern dance and ballet moves.

The overall experience to Peter Pan was fun and enjoyable - as simple as that! And yet, there were so many aspects that made it enjoyable - dancing, singing, flying, digital sets, puppeteering, and aerial tricks to name a few - none of which would work, unless the acting could tie it all together. So all you die hard theatre fans, rest assured the digital world isn't destroying your world... yet?

Maybe with computers now at our finger tips, we will all be reaching out for a more human touch that only live theatre can give us? What do you think?

-Tiina Vuorenmaa

1 comment:

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Shows like this are wonderful to watch. l hope to take my kid during the weekends. I'm sure he will like it.