Atlanta will be the fourth city to see an ambitious new Cirque du Soleil-style theatrical and multimedia performance of “Peter Pan,” scheduled to open January 21 between the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium, near Centennial Olympic Park. Expected to draw sizable crowds, the show could be a major boost for often-maligned downtown Atlanta.
The performance, which is staged in a specially constructed 10-story, 1,300-seat tent similar to the ones Cirque has been erecting around Atlanta for years, features 23 actors in a theater-in-the-round setting, with 360-degree film projections of Edwardian London and Neverland projected throughout the interior of the tent. Large puppets, representing the crocodile with a taste for Captain Hook, for example, are also used.
The show opened in London in 2009, where it played for 16 weeks, and has since played in San Francisco and Orange County, Calif., outside Los Angeles. The British production company, threesixty entertainment, is billing the Atlanta show as “the United States East Coast premiere.”
Reviews have been mixed but frequently enthusiastic. Paul Hodgins of The Orange County Register loved this Pan and called it “grandly and unabashedly theatrical.” Robert Hurwitt of the San Francisco Chronicle called the many special effects “spectacular and highly entertaining” and thought the overall event “a pretty good show in impressive wrapping.” Richard Slayton of the Los Angeles Times started out calling the venue itself “the ultimate kid-friendly environment for the ultimate kid-friendly play,” then decided that the show “puts ambition ahead of heart.” Paul Callan of the Daily Express in England seemed a bit puzzled, but he called the flying effects “immensely thrilling.”
J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play “Peter Pan: The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up” has been adapted and re-imagined countless times, most famously as a Disney animated movie. The British creative team of Ben Harrison (director), Tanya Ronder (adapter) and William Dudley (designer) have made several interesting staging decisions, including using adult actors for all the roles, including the Darling children (Peter, frequently played by a woman in live theater, is played by a man, Nate Fallows). And here Tinker Bell is a tough punk fairy who wears a soiled tutu. No attempt is made to hide the wires that allow the performers to fly above the audience.
The computer-generated special effects have received praise everywhere the show has played. Twelve projectors project backgrounds in 360 degrees inside the tent, yielding what the production notes say is 15,000 square feet of computer-generated imagery, or about three times the size of an IMAX screen. The rendering of London is based on photographs of the city in 1904.
Tickets will go on sale Monday, October 25, at www.peterpantheshow.com or by phone at 1-888-772-6849. Prices run $35 to $75, with some discounts for children. A closing date has not been announced.