BWW Review: Bad Hats' PETER PAN at Soulpepper Inspires the Imagination
With a little creativity, anything is possible. Soulpepper's presentation of Bad Hats Theatre's PETER PAN is proof that imagination can push the limits of what is possible on stage. Set in the round, the wonderfully-clever production has chuckling adults and wide-eyed children all believing in fairies.
J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan is in trusting hands with Fiona Sauder and Reanne Spitzer's adaption. There are no ropes to give Peter flight, no intricate crocodile puppets - yet we're left with an impression that Peter did indeed fly, and there surely was a crocodile. That is stage magic. And the proof of that magic is in the glistening eyes of the captivated kids.
I don't know if I'd call PETER PAN a musical, the singing was tolerable - it is certainly a play with music. Composed by Landon Doak and Company, the folky tunes, supported by warm harmonies, feel and sound very Canadian. Pair it with movement and you create a cheery mood, like the one that made Come From Away so popular.
The stage action is just as charming. As Pan, Fiona Sauder soars with exceptional comedic timing and great physicality. A few of her expressions were quite funny - when Wendy asks Peter for a kiss, for instance. Severn Thompson's direction is highly active, the action moving quickly enough to create attentive viewers out of children and adults, and inventive enough to make us all feel like kids again.
The delightful mood the production creates reminded me of the 2011 Broadway production of Godspell - also in the round, the minimalist production featured bright costumes, a small, versatile cast, and a sound creative vision. The ensemble in PETER PAN are all fascinatingly versatile performers, taking on many roles with convincing ease. Lost boys become pirates, fathers become villains, daughters become mothers - and they all transition into their various roles marvellously.
Thompson and the ensemble require your imagination for so much of the show, and they make sure you don't have to strain very hard to believe. Tinkerbell comes to life by pairing a sparkling tennis ball, a tiny bell and a talented voice actor (Reanne Spitzer). Locations change through explosive movement, the closing of chests and sweeping of materials across the stage. I won't spoil how they all fly.
The holidays can be stressful, but Bad Hats' cast of PETER PAN will inspire you to escape with them to Neverland. The production is perfect for children, but as an imaginative adult, I had just as much fun.
Bad Hats' PETER PAN, presented by Soulpepper, runs through December 31, 2017 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery District, Toronto, ON.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit soulpepper.ca
photo credit: Fiona Sauder and PETER PAN Ensemble. Photo by Nicholas Porteous.