It’s tempting to say that Scottish writer J.M. Barrie’s character of Peter Pan has been having a resurgence in recent years, what with the Hollywood movie Pan having opened recently, NBC’s Peter Pan Live event last year and such plays and musicals as Peter and the Starcatcher and Finding Neverland reaching Broadway.
1904 the year J.M. Barrie’s play debuted with the full story of Peter Pan
But really, the story of the boy who wouldn’t grow up and his adventures with pirates and fairies and Lost Boys hasn’t left the public consciousness since Barrie’s 1904 play (and later novel) that introduced the full story. (He had created the character of Pan for an earlier work).
Next comes Barrie’s play performed by actors, circus performers, aerialists and puppets, combined with 12 projectors delivering 360-degree projection on 15,000 square feet of CGI with 10 million pixels, in what’s called the largest surround CGI venue in the world, able to cover 400 square miles of virtual London.
That’s Peter Pan 360, opening Wednesday under a big top in the Dallas arts district.
You have the best projection possible when it’s on the ceiling of the tent, like four IMAX screens projected all around you
Thom Southerland, director of
“The first thing is the flight to Neverland; we must feel that we’re leaving London, this place that people know, to this really magical place,” says Thom Southerland, director of Peter Pan 360.
“The way to do it was in a tent; you have the best projection possible when it’s on the ceiling of the tent, like four IMAX screens projected all around you.”
Called the Threesixty Theatre, the tent is erected in one of the few areas of the Dallas arts district that’s currently lacking a building or green space, the future home of a commercial/residential complex called the Spire. It is a parking lot at the northeast corner of downtown Dallas, on the other side of North Central Expressway from Deep Ellum.
The spectacle opened in London in 2009 and has been touring the world. In Dallas, it’s being presented in association with AT&T Performing Arts Center through Nov. 29.
Audiences will get Barrie’s original play, but with technology not fully seen in live theater, even in this age of digital projections.
The French circus outfit 7 Fingers, which created the circus feats for the Broadway revival and recent tour of the musical Pippin that was seen in Dallas and Fort Worth, is behind the circus and aerial performances in the show.
And although lovers of the musical have often seen Peter and Wendy being hoisted above the stage on proscenium theaters, in the in-the-round 360, Peter, Tinker Bell and the Darling kids fly around the tent with the focus on a circular stage in the middle. A steel structure holds up the tent from the outside, so there are no poles or obstructions inside the performance area of the tent.
Despite the dazzling effects, Southerland, who has directed plays and musicals across the world, says that connection to the actors and story is still his ultimate goal.
In the United Kingdom, the musical version of ‘Peter Pan’ isn’t nearly as common as the play.
“The story is the most important thing to me,” he says, adding that in the United Kingdom, the musical version of Peter Pan isn’t nearly as common as the play, which often appears in holiday “panto” form.
“When I started working in the theater, I didn’t have these big budgets and I learned that story is key, and that has stuck with me,” Southerland says. “It’s a modern audience of kids and older people, so there has to be something for everyone.”
For him, that’s the essence of why the Peter Pan story has endured the test of time.
“For children, it is a marvelous adventure and takes them beyond their wildest dreams,” he says. “Everybody can relate to the boy who won’t grow up and shirks responsibility. It’s completely and utterly timeless, but there’s a serious and darker element to it, as well.
“Families of three or four generations have been coming to see it, and they are transfixed when they see it. It’s so magical.”
Peter Pan 360
- Wednesday through Nov. 29
- Threesixty Theatre at the Spire, 2450 San Jacinto St., Dallas
- 214-880-0202; www.attpac.org