Lawrence Toppman

Charlotte Ballet revives buoyant ‘Peter Pan’

Tinker Bell (Sarah Hayes Harkins) looks on as Wendy (Jamie Dee Clifton) gets a flying lesson from Peter (Jordan Leeper) in Charlotte Ballet’s “Peter Pan.”
Tinker Bell (Sarah Hayes Harkins) looks on as Wendy (Jamie Dee Clifton) gets a flying lesson from Peter (Jordan Leeper) in Charlotte Ballet’s “Peter Pan.”

Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux choreographed “Peter Pan” in 2004, let it lie fallow until 2013, then revived it again this week after only two years away. That’s fast even in the abbreviated cycle of a youthful dance fan, but it’s hard to be cranky when the show provides such uncomplicated pleasure.

Much of the opening-night cast Thursday returned from the last version: Sarah Hayes Harkins’ shimmering Tinker Bell, Jamie Dee Clifton’s wide-eyed Wendy, Addul Manzano’s eye-rollingly foppish Captain Hook, Melissa Anduiza’s gracious Tiger Lily (all lily, no tiger), even Gregory Taylor’s mischievous Shadow.

The big change came in the title role, which Jordan Leeper makes his own. Pete Leo Walker was a brash, earthy Peter; when he took to the air, he defied gravity. Leeper’s more of a sprite, at least as much at home when he flies as when he lands. The swaggering walk and hands-to-hips posture Bonnefoux often gives Peter looked like merry braggadocio on Walker’s big body, but it makes the thinner Leeper seem impish.

Nothing has been changed about Howard Jones’ stylish, imaginative sets or A. Christina Giannini’s remarkably varied costumes, both purpose-built for this show. The flying stunts, which culminate in Leeper’s double-somersault during the big battle, still charm.

Nor does the unthreatening atmosphere become dull. The book and every previous film and stage version I know deals with darker themes: the unhealthiness of prolonged adolescence, the loneliness of a soul that can never mature, the sense that evil must be subdued for a healthy society to succeed. Not for Bonnefoux are Tinker Bell’s attempted poisoning of Wendy or the crocodile’s desire to consume Hook; his croc, a dandy with a soft, floppy tail, mostly wants to be one of the Lost Boys.

No, the takeaway here is that everyone wants to be loved, from the posturing Captain to the soulful crocodile – everyone except Peter, of course, who doesn’t know what love is. (He wants to be admired.) At one point, he dances with innocent Wendy, elegant Tiger Lily and flirtatious Tinker Bell at once. He wears a happy, distracted smile as he interacts with them, thinking of his next adventure. For a boy who doesn’t need to grow up, pleasure is enough.

Toppman: 704-358-5232

REVIEW

‘Peter Pan’

Charlotte Ballet revives Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux’s light-hearted version of the James Barrie story about a boy who never grows up.

WHEN: Through March 22 at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St.

TICKETS: $25-$90.

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes.

DETAILS: 704-372-1000 or charlotteballet.org.

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