REVIEW: ‘Peter Pan’ Soars at the Aronoff!

This 'Peter Pan' is highly recommended for families, or anyone who needs a bit of adventure in their life!

By Matt Omasta

Peter Pan, running at the Aronoff Center through March 24, will delight audiences of all ages with a captivating, fresh take on the classic tale. 

This modern musical adaptation features classic elements of J.M. Barrie’s tale in delightful new ways, facilitated largely through revisions to the book by MacArthur Fellow Larissa Fasthorse, who has transformed the story into a contemporary masterpiece through her re-conception of each character and their potential. It is skillfully knit by director Lonny Price and with lively choreography by Lorin Latarro, creating an enchanting world for the young and young at heart.

Peter Pan cast

The Updated Plot Works

In today’s Peter Pan, the curtain rises to reveal Wendy attempting to record a “viral video” with her brother John. At her house, set somewhere in the contemporary United States, Wendy still lives in the nursery with her younger brothers because her father uses the spare bedroom as a home office. While Peter has always addressed the audience as he tries to save Tinker Bell’s life, new interactive moments with Captain Hook (Cody Garcia) and his band of pirates, who sing “We Hate those Kids” to the tune of “I Won’t Grow Up” bring much laughter. 

While such changes help texture the whimsical world of the play, some of the most notable improvements center around the characters, who have become far more sophisticated and nuanced. Young audience members will experience positive role models in this play, with its depictions of strong female characters, including Tiger Lily (Raye Zaragoza), who leads a tribe of multinational indigenous people who have come to Neverland to preserve their cultures, and Wendy (Hawa Kamara) whose childhood aspiration to become a doctor comes to fruition. 

Peter Pan’s Creative Team

Based on the play by Sir J.M. Barrie, with Carolyn Leigh (lyrics); Morris (Moose) Charlap (music); Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Amanada Green (additional lyrics), Julie Styne (additional music), and, perhaps most significantly, Larissa Fasthorse (additional book), the play retains most of its classic score, including favorites such as “I Won’t Grow Up” and “I’m Flying!”. Its overall sensibility is remains recognizable as well – Neverland remains a place where enemies can become close friends over the course of a 3-minute song.  

Production Team

The production features many visually captivating moments, from Peter’s interactions with his shadow to beautiful moments of aerial acrobatics, including the children’s flight to Neverland that is brought to life through a combination of projection (by David Bengali) and flight choreography (by Paul Rubin). The world feels like a playground of sorts, with vibrant colors developed by Anna Louizos (scenic design), Sarafina Bush (costume design), Amith Chandrashaker (lighting design). Especially commendable is the “Tinker Bell” design by Paul Kieve, which truly brings the feisty fairy to life; audiences will delight in the ways she flies through (and into) the scenery in a highly expressive manner. With perhaps the exception of a bizarre singing moon who occasionally distracts us from the action, the design beautifully transports us to magical places.

Overall, Peter Pan is a Great Time

This play is highly recommended for families, or anyone who needs a bit of adventure in their life! Tickets (and family packages) are available at the Aronoff Box Office or CLICK HERE. Peter Pan is part of the Broadway in Cincinnati Series.

Matt Omasta is Professor, Chair, and Artistic Director of Miami University’s Department of Theatre. His directing and research focus on theatre with, for, and by young people; his published books include Playwriting and Young Audiences and Impacting Theatre Audiences. This is his first year reviewing for LCT.

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