Review: Houston Ballet’s Peter Pan Is Flying High
Choreographer Trey McIntyre gives us an exuberant fairy tale.
Trey McIntyre’s three-act ballet Peter Pan was first seen in 2002. So while some Houston audiences have seen this production before, no one has seen this cast. And the opening night cast was a delight.
Principal dancer Charles-Louis Yoshiyama was an exuberant, athletic Peter Pan. Demi-soloist Aoi Fujiwara was an enchanting, powerful Wendy and new principal dancer Chase O’Connell was an arrogant, malicious Captain Hook.
The choreography was wonderful, clean, and spirited. True, there were no “watch me do a million pirouettes” moments. Instead of showstopping technically difficult dancing, McIntyre focused on exuberant flying sequences and lyrical storytelling. And Peter Pan was much more satisfying because of it.
From rousing sword fights to touching moments of longing, McIntyre’s Peter Pan has it all.
McIntyre reached across the entire company to cast Peter Pan. Corps member Jack Wolff plays Peter Pan in the alternate cast, first soloist Monica Gomez is Wendy, and first soloist Christopher Coomer is Captain Hook. It speaks to the depth of talent in Stanton Welch’s company that a corps member and an experienced principal dancer share a role and perform equally well.
Charles-Louis Yoshiyama’s Peter Pan was charming and happily roguish. Wearing little more than a few leaves and a belt, Yoshiyama’s well-sculpted body was perfectly portrayed the frenetic boy Peter Pan. He enthusiastically lept into each flying sequence and then showed unexpected tenderness in his several pas de deux with Wendy.
As Wendy, demi-soloist Aoi Fujiwara was absolutely lovely. Innocent and waif-like one minute, strong and motherly, the next.
Yoshiyama and Fujiwara were exceptionally well-suited to each other. Their final pas de deux, where Wendy, after leaving Neverland and returning to her family home, tries to coax Peter Pan into staying with her in the real world, was poignant and moving. Moving, but not exactly sad. Each is getting what they want – Wendy, a home, and Peter, his freedom. That they could not achieve happiness together is bittersweet but not heartbreaking.
Chase O’Connell was appropriately unlikable as Captain Hook, a relentless bully in charge of a rag-tag group of wayward pirates. Towering over the rest of the cast, O’Connell loomed large every time he stepped on stage. Achieving such excellence in a character role, it will be interesting to see him in a classical ballet.
Opening night included principal dancers Connor Walsh and Jessica Collado as Wendy’s parents. With their own faces hidden by masks, Walsh and Collado were tasked with using only their bodies to express emotions. They start off as proud parents of a rambunctious trio of children, but once Wendy and her brothers leave with Peter, they’re left devastated and desolate, worrying over their missing children’s empty beds. Walsh and Collado were perfect throughout.
There were a few missteps in the production. The costumes were a bit uneven and the lighting by Christina R. Giannelli was unusually unrefined at times.
While most of the costumes were fine, a few confusing outfits made it onto the stage. The beasts in particular; they were dressed head to toe in long, multicolored strings. Standing still, each beast was a very colorful version of Cousin It. Moving, they were transformed into energetic drive-through car wash brushes. It was difficult to see the dancers’ movements; mostly the audience just saw an inexact suggestion of movement. But maybe that’s all beasts are capable of.
This is a show where any sparkling bit of light on the stage might be a fairy, right? Well, there were stray bits of light from time to time, little sparkles on the set pieces. But they weren’t fairies, just stray bits of light. And the lighting effects behind the scrims were modest and unpolished at best.
Overall, Peter Pan is an enjoyable, lighthearted performance. It’s filled with irrepressible, exuberant performances. The show continues through September 18.
See the OutSmart Magazine interview with out choreographer Trey McIntyre.