Classic story meets CGI

Every seat is a good seat at this production of 'Peter Pan,' according to co-producer.

September 30, 2010|By Candice Baker
  • Nate Fallows as Peter Pan and Abby Ford as Wendy Darling, give a flying demonstration for the show "Peter Pan" at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Thursday.
Nate Fallows as Peter Pan and Abby Ford as Wendy Darling,… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

The boy who never grew up is more than 100 years old, but new fans are now discovering him in Costa Mesa.

One of the most technologically advanced pieces of theater in history has arrived at the Orange County Performing Arts Center — seats, stage and all.

A new tented production of "Peter Pan" has drawn acclaim worldwide for its 360-degree computer-generated-imagery backdrop, stunning flying sequences and focus on traditional storytelling.

"Peter Pan" is a great unifier, show co-producer Matthew Churchill said: perfect for kids who are more interested in "Avatar" and video games than live theater. The gang's all here: Capt. Hook, the Lost Boys, Tiger Lily and the Darling family are joined by traditional puppets.

"It's almost a bit like the kids are taking the parents to see CGI, and parents are taking kids to see 'Peter Pan,'" Churchill said. "It really has something for people of all ages. We kind of say that you can read the show on various levels. For Mom and Dad, we stick to the original story."


Churchill said the "theater-in-the-round" aspect of the tent makes every seat a prime one; compared to a standard theater with 1,300 seats and a stage at one end, the seats for "Peter Pan" all are wrapped around a circular stage.

"Our back row, if in a Broadway theater, would be right where the most expensive seats are," Churchill said. "The CGI goes all the way around."

With the 360-degree projections, "When they fly to Neverland, the whole audience can fly with them," Churchill said.

Such technology, although it comes at a heavy price, has reaped huge rewards.

"We raised the money at the worst possible moment of the credit crisis, but we raised it when a lot of people couldn't raise money for their shows because the idea kind of sold itself," Churchill said. "No one has done a big, new 'Peter Pan' in a long time in England."

The show opened to record advances, and quickly became a sold-out phenomenon. Even Charles, the prince of Wales, and Camilla, duchess of Cornwall, made an appearance at a gala event, at which Churchill and Burnell were responsible for a cast meet-and-greet.

"Prince Charles had some great jokes," Churchill said. "It was great fun."

Famed luxury jeweler Van Cleef and Arpels donated $36 million of diamonds and emeralds to use as table decorations, and Royal Protection squad staff were positioned in trees and throughout the park. Bearskin hats and trumpet fanfare were de rigueur.

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