Heather’s Review of “Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan”

Earlier this year, I published a post about our visit to the Tempe Center for the Arts to watch a production by Childsplay called Perô or The Mysteries of the Night. As one of the Childsplay Family2Family Bloggers for their 2015-2016 season, my family and I were fortunate enough to attend another one of their performances this past weekend, Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan.

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This production is performed on the main stage and has a fantastic set! This is a sequel to the original Peter Pan story and tells a wonderful tale filled with emotion, adventure, and fun. The actors connected with the audience and drew in their attention quickly. My 6 and 9 year old boys were engaged in the performance from the beginning.

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There are lots of acrobatic moves as the characters battle ninjas and pirates, as well as race around Neverland having fun. This was a longer performance than  Perô or The Mysteries of the Night and included an intermission – which is always good when you are with young children.   The performance focused on time and memories as well – these productions are great about giving the families conversation starters for the ride home.  My boys thoroughly enjoyed it – especially all of the action scenes!

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Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan is showing for a couple of more weeks, for more details, you can visit the website here. If you do attend with small children, I’d highly recommend stopping by the coat check on your way in to grab a cushion for the seat – gives kids that extra little boost they need to see the stage.

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Heather
Family Blogger

We returned to Neverland!

What do you get when you cross Pirates of the Caribbean with Peter Pan? You get the perfect sequel! This past weekend, my girls and I ventured out to see Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan. This had been on our calendar for almost six months, so the anticipation was high. Long before their interest of princesses, my girls loved the story of Peter Pan. We walked into the theater wondering where a sequel would take us; where would they pick up from? Who would Peter Pan’s new friends be?

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Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan beautifully picked this up and captured all of the fun and magic that the original story provided. At the beginning of the play, we are introduced to a modern day Wendy. She has much more spunk and was much more high spirited than the one we met in the first story. We met her mother and grandmother in the opening scene along with a boy named Henry. Our interest was peaked and we wondered who were these characters and how would they tie into the classic we first fell in love with.

Within ten minutes into the play, we returned to Neverland! I was amazed at how Neverland was recreated on the stage. It was a series of slides, platforms, poles and a jungle gym all put together to make it a child’s dream, just as Neverland is intended.  Don’t worry, it is not your ordinary playground equipment thrown up on stage. I found myself wanting to get up and play on stage.

We were reunited with old friends Peter Pan and Smee and soon met two additional pirates, Ann Bonny and Mary Reed, who would serve as our new villains. However, with their quick wit, hilarious one liners and antics, it was hard to dislike them. They provided many laughs and chuckles that amused both children and adults.

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Peter Pan was his usual playful self. The actor captured his spunk and attitude so well. His new identity of Pete made him much cooler. He provided Wendy and Henry with new adventures that included a bony bird (otherwise known as a pterodactyl) and run-in with ninjas. Yes, ninjas and pterodactyls were written into this sequel. Surprisingly, they fit so well and provided the audience with awe and entertainment!

The overall story of the sequel was cleverly written. We loved the main characters and rooted for them to prevail, but had such a hard time disliking Smee and our new villains. The story line has some twists and turns and unexpected surprises! These new characters were well developed and  integrated so well into the original story line. Without giving anything away, I was left feeling amazed on how it fit together so well and wrapped it up leaving no loose ends, but also provided a chance for the story to continue.

I highly recommend this fun and endearing sequel to a beloved classic. The story line is truly unique and entertaining. I would recommend it to ages five and up, but to truly understand the unexpected surprises and tie it to the original, it is best for ages seven and up. Come with an open mind and prepare for the unexpected because this is not your ordinary Peter Pan, but still as magical and fun as the first!

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The running time for this play is almost two hours. In the middle of the play, there is a fifteen minute intermission. I highly recommend checking out the costume exhibit that is in the back of the Performing Arts Center. It is on display until Mid-May. The exhibit features a gorgeous display of theatrical costumes and masks. We were truly awed by the detail put into these costumes. If you come after Mid-May, there will be another incredible exhibit, as periodically the current exhibit is replaced by another interesting and exciting exhibit. There were not many people viewing the exhibit during intermission, so it left me wondering if people were aware of this hidden gem inside the Performing Arts Center. Be sure to check it out. There is no additional cost and you will not be disappointed.

Darcy Mize
Family Blogger

“Goodnight Moon” delivered!

Childsplay’s Goodnight Moon performance had every aspect of Margaret Wise Brown’s timeless book and then some.

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They were able to incorporate “The Runaway Bunny”, the nursery rhyme of the cow jumping over the moon, and they even added in the tooth fairy! I was amazed when the bears sitting in chairs turned out to be tap dancing bears, who knew they had such talent?

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This performance was also a good lesson in perseverance with telling the cow to try again and again and to believe you can do anything you set your mind to.

My older children were very curious on the workings of how the objects (clock, lamp, bed, etc) were moving around. The fog coming out of the doll house (tooth fairy’s workshop) was a nice touch. At the end of the performance they invited everyone to form a line if they wanted to come on stage and speak to the actors/actresses and explore the stage/props. I would say the play was just the right amount of time for the attention span of my two year old.

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I will add this tip: arrive into the stage area early if you choose floor seating! I did not think about it and so we were in the last row of the floor seating and it made it a bit difficult to see everything especially for my youngest kids. Childsplay was very nice and accommodating to provide cushions and rugs to make the floor seating more comfortable.

In the lobby there was a Goodnight Moon photo booth (ipad) which took a series of 4 pictures which you could then upload to your Facebook or Twitter account. At the activity table the children enjoyed coloring/writing their own “Goodnight” stories. Next to the activity table, there was a small Goodnight Moon photo prop with chair which made for a cute picture of one of my little ones. I would recommend Goodnight Moon as an enjoyable performance for all ages.

Rachael Adelhelm
Family Blogger

Full Moon

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One of my most visceral memories of watching a Childsplay production came a couple of years ago as I watched The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. As the last scene played out, I felt an ocean of tears pour down my cheeks, so moving were the story and the performances as they worked in perfect concert with one another. Since then, I have seen a number of other shows from the troupe – each one of them quite good and of impressive quality – but none that quite approached the highs of Edward Tulane.

Goodnight Moon comes really, really close, though.

This charming, whimsical musical takes the beloved children’s book by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd and not only treats it with reverence, but actually manages to build upon it to create a world that engages the imagination on an amazing level. The story, such as it is, is simple: a young bunny does his best to avoid going to bed (as our own children are wont to do). His distractions to help him do so are plentiful: a mischievous mouse, a pair of kittens, some unusual bears, a daredevil cow, and much, much more.

My step-children both cite the book as their favorite bedtime story from their early years, so we went into the theatre with great anticipation. It was a particularly seminal story for my step-son, who is autistic. There is a rhythm to the book’s language that was soothing to him and helped him deal with his autism-driven anxiety issues. Amazingly, the Childsplay production had much the same effect. He was entranced by much of what he saw on the stage, the characters, songs, and situations offering comfort to him. It was wonderful to see it.

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For her part, my step-daughter had much the same response. She was continually impressed by every aspect of the production. At least twice she asked me how the actors were changing costumes so quickly, and she was also curious about how many of the props and scenery pieces worked. The production not only captured her childhood love of the book, but it engaged her curiosity on an intellectual level, which made her mother and I quite happy.

Everything about Goodnight Moon impressed. The cast (Michael Thompson, Chanel Bragg, Michelle Chin, and Tommy Strawser) is uniformly excellent. Thompson, as the bunny, brings a joyful innocence to the character, and you can’t help but adore him as he tries to avoid sleep. Bragg, Chin, and Strawser take on multiple roles, and each one gets the chance to shine. Their singing voices are all in fine form as well, and some innovative choreography helps propel the songs to glorious heights.

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But as good as the cast is, they are matched in the quality of the actual production. The stage is gorgeously rendered as the bunny’s bedroom, and the prop work is some of the finest I’ve seen since… well, since Edward Tulane. The attention to detail is staggering, and shows off exactly why Childsplay is the best theatre of its kind in the country.

Marc Mason
Family Blogger

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