Sunday, May 13, 2001

Ballet's Peter Pan beguiling

DeLeone's score mined for fun

By Carol Norris
Enquirer contributor

        Cincinnati Ballet's Peter Pan has all the sweetness you'd want. Parents, this is as good as it gets for introducing the kids to ballet. Judging from the little ones sitting around me at Friday's opening, there's plenty to giggle at and the story line is abundantly clear.

        The ballet's been done once before with choreography by Peter Anastos. This latest version by Washington Ballet's Septime Webre is superior in every way. He mines maestro Carmon DeLeone's original score for little nuggets of fun and exploits the heck out of them. He's also added new flying tricks — somersaults for Peter Pan (a thoroughly enchanting Michael Wardlaw) as he battles the evil Captain Hook (goofy and menacing Valentine Liberatore).

        If there's a criticism it's the casual way Mr. Webre stages group dances. Laid-back and loose, they border on sloppy. Pirates and wenches and lost boys aren't supposed to be tidy, but it's useful to be able to follow their action.

        Flying by Foy comes off without a hitch as you're swept into the fantasy along with the Darling children — Meridith Benson as Wendy, Kyle Stevenson as Michael and Greg Schoenwolf as John. They fly from home into a starry night and — with the aid of enchanting projections — are transported to Never Never Land.

        The three Darlings are just that and Ms. Benson offers a honeyed, wholesome Wendy. Other mentionables — Irina Noda's Tinker Bell serves up wizardry with fairy dust and dancing that's lighter than air; Kristi Capps' Princess Tiger Lily shows a growing sureness in the limelight as she whips off a dozen or so fouettes (spins on one leg, very tricky).

        It was a delight to revisit Mr. DeLeone's fun-filled score that takes you from dreamy to boisterous and back again. He's included all the tinkles and tic-tocs you'd expect and even gives the Crocodile (Luciano Lazzarotto) something to boogaloo to.

        Designer Holly Highfill has given Jay Depenbrock's original set design a face lift with a new paint job. It's fun — look for the crocodile border in the Darling children's bedroom if you go.

        Cincinnati Ballet's Peter Pan continues at 2 p.m. today at the Aronoff Center. 241-7469.


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