‘Peter Pan’ is modern, family-friendly fun at Washington Ballet


Maki Onuki and Jonathan Jordan in The Washington Ballet's "Peter Pan." (Carol Pratt/Carol Pratt)
April 18

When J.M. Barrie named his characters John, Wendy and Michael Darling, he must have known that someday they would star in a darling little ballet like this.

The Washington Ballet is reprising its 2001 production of “Peter Pan,” a cheeky escapade for three kids who fly across the Eisenhower Theater stage and off to a Never Never Land full of pirates, Indian princesses and hungry crocodiles. Artistic director and choreographer Septime Webre has set his character-driven ballet on eight other companies and, for this hometown go-around, rented the best whimsical costumes, props and sets from the Dayton, Ohio; Nashville; and Cincinnati ballets. Carmon DeLeone’s lively score, alas, remains a recorded soundtrack.

On Thursday’s opening night at the Kennedy Center, longtime company member Jonathan Jordan came flying into the Darling family nursery on a thin wire-and-pulley system designed by special-effects gurus Flying by Foy. Joining Jordan in the air were company member Maki Onuki as Wendy, studio company member Ariel Breitman as John and 10-year-old Matthew Luhman as Michael. Two decades may span these dancers’ ages, but onstage they made an adorable trio of pajama-clad siblings.

Act I is essentially a divertis­sement featuring the inhabitants of Never Never Land, with choreography that’s a mix of Marius Petipa and clever slapstick. The pirates, led by Jared Nelson and Brooklyn Mack, were particularly amusing when they spoofed the “Swan Lake” pas de quatre and the grand gestures of “Les Sylphides.”

In Act II, the rogues return with partners in tow, and the same company ladies who posed as regal Indian princesses get to whoop it up as pirate wenches. Luis Torres kept the crowd laughing as Captain Hook, particularly when he tangoed with Marshall Whiteley (unrecognizable in a fluorescent-green crocodile costume). Given the free-wheeling good time that everyone else onstage is having, it’s disappointing that Webre’s stock solo and duet choreography for Peter Pan, Wendy and Tinkerbell (Tamako Miyazaki) looks straight out of a 19th-century story ballet. Everything else is 21st-century family-friendly fun.

Ritzel is a freelance writer.

Peter Pan

Continues through April 27 at the Kennedy Center, with rotating casting

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