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The Royal NZ Ballet's touring production of Peter Pan fully deserves the accolades which have been heaped upon it.
This rollicking story ballet honours the time-tested values of the great story ballets, with richly contrasting characters whose personalities are created entirely through movement (choreographer Russell Kerr), a set and costumes which provide the context for the action (designer Kristian Fredrickson), a carefully crafted score whose motifs cue the action and enrich the story (composer Philip Norman), all providing the setting for the cohesive ensemble dancing, and lead dancers whose nonchalant virtuosity lets the story flow without interruption.
Peter Pan closely follows the plot of J.M. Barrie's 1911 book Peter Pan and Wendy on which it is based. Peter Pan and Tinkerbell fly through the nursery window of the Darling children, and whisk them away to Neverland to frolic with the Lost Boys, Captain Hook and his Pirates, Tiger Lily and the Redskins, Mermaids, a Never Bird, and a ticking Crocodile.
Here, a kiss really can stop poison, and a boy brandishing a sword can outwit a wily old pirate and make him walk the plank into the waiting jaws of a crocodile.
But here also, the limits of eternal childhood soon become apparent, and the Darling children opt to return home.
Their awaiting parents are overjoyed to see them, and while the children try to convey all that has happened, Peter hovers outside the closed nursery windows, shut out from their lives.
The lead roles are beautifully and effectively embodied. Tonia Looker is a feisty, ever-flittering Tinkerbell, able to throw a truly tempestuous tantrum when frustrated; Michael Braun is the charmingly persuasive, ever-smiling, always brave Peter, fleetingly betraying doubt and fear and sorrow in his moments alone.
Sir Jon Trimmer is the wily and capricious Hook, and Abigail Boyle is a suitably independent Tiger Lily. As the Darling children, Katie Hurst-Saxon (Wendy), Rory Fairweather-Neylan (Michael) and Jacob Chown (John) are on stage and convincingly children throughout the evening, no mean feat.
The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra evidently enjoyed playing Philip Norman's vibrant cinematic score, and the audience quickly picked up the crystal-clear motifs for each character.
A whoosh of wind signals arrivals and departures from the nursery window coated in fairy dust, Pan pipes indicate Peter is nearby, bold brass and oompahs signal the pirates are coming, and there's a tick tock woodblock sound for the Crocodile.
Each of the six different settings has music in a different style, with references aplenty to movies and musicals and popular music of different ages.
One scene seems at odds with the generally child-friendly ambience - the Heavens which are home to the Sun King and the gods of Cold, Dark, Warmth and Light are very much an adult nightclub, with black bottom jazz and drag-queenesque Stars who feel like they came from some other production.
What: Peter Pan.
Where: Aotea Centre, to Sunday.