NBT’s playful ‘Peter Pan’ sets hearts aflutter at the Smith Center

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

★★★★★ - Irresistible

“Second to the right, and then straight on till morning.” Every child knows (though most grown-ups have forgotten) that Neverland is a wondrous place that resides in the the heart and mind. Nevada Ballet Theatre’s charming storybook presentation of choreographer Jorden Morris’ adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s classic tale “Peter Pan” proved the perfect family treat on Mother’s Day weekend. For Barrie’s story isn’t just about feisty fairies, crusty pirates, and a little boy who refuses to grow up, but is also about the yearning for a mother’s love.

Growing up can feel like exuberance sprinkled with melancholy for children and parents alike. It’s a fleeting quality integral to Barrie’s work that Morris admirably captures, choreographed mostly to the music of Barrie’s contemporary Sir Edward Elgar, among others. He stays with the story (with a few variations) and takes the time to develop the loving relationship of the Darling family in the first act nursery scenes with funny horseplay and pretty duets, though this section feels a bit long. But once Peter and Tinkerbell arrive and Wendy, Michael, and John fly off with them to Neverland (literally and fantastically, courtesy of Flying By Foy), the show really gets its wings.

Morris, who worked with the company on the production with the help of rehearsal assistants Caitlin Peabody and Tara Foy, uses grand gestures and pantomime to propel the narrative forward that are more fresh and natural in style than in classic story ballets. The language is animated without being cartoonish, and the dancers really get to show off their acting chops. We can see Barrie’s familiar words in their movements.