Peter Pan (2000)
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that kids will see some obviously staged fights, some dated stereotypes, and questionable behavior of the sort forgiveable in a fantasy. Kids will see battles between the pirates, Native Americans, and the children. The kids are captured, Peter is wounded, and Hook throws himself over to be eaten by a crocodile. A dated stereotype of Native Americans has them saying "ugh" a lot, but they are also portrayed as Peter's courageous allies, which was controversial when the story was written. Wendy is objectified as a "mother," and it is assumed, by her as well as the boys and the pirates, that her role is to care for males and kids. Though forgiveable in a fantasy like this, the kids do run away from home with a strange boy. There is no profanity, but Tinkerbell does call Peter a "silly ass" several times, which parents might explain was more commonly used to mean "donkey" when the story was written.
What's the story?
Former Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby stars as Peter Pan in this Broadway production of the musical, filmed on stage. Led by Tinkerbell the fairy, Peter comes to the Darling nursery one night in search of his shadow. He meets Wendy, Michael, and John, and teaches them to fly. He then persuades them to return with him to Neverland to live with the Lost Boys, so that Wendy can be their mother, and make them pockets and tell stories. Peter rescues Tiger Lilly from the odious Captain Hook, and she rescues him from the rising tide, so they join forces against the pirates. Captain Hook plans to poison Peter, capture the children, make them walk the plank, and keep Wendy to be the pirates' mother. But Peter defeats the pirates and the Lost Boys return home with the Darlings to be adopted.
Is it any good?
Rigby is the best Pan seen on Broadway, far better than Mary Martin or the cutesy Sandy Duncan. Her dynamic and athletic performance is probably as close as a woman can come to portraying a boy, and her singing voice is powerful and clear. The flying is thrilling. Rigby swoops, tumbles, and spins through the air with reckless abandon, the theater scarcely seeming large enough to hold her. Most of the best musical numbers take place in the nursery -- the excitement often flags once the characters reach Neverland. But this production brings it flying back, with a breathtaking staging of the song "Ugg-A-Wugg," in which the Lost Boys and Indians unite, that has the cast drumming all over the stage.
There are problems. The British accents are distractingly bad. Close-ups of Rigby don't help bolster the illusion that she is a 10-year-old boy. Oddly, the Lost Boys are played by teens and adults as well; the only real children on the stage are John and Michael. Paul Schoeffler's plays Hook entirely for laughs, but has none of that villain's oily menace and swagger. But these are quibbles; updated for today's children, this PETER PAN will have them leaping out of their seats with excitement, singing the songs for days, and dreaming of flying.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the stereotypes and discuss what the play means. Why do the "Indians" in this play say "ugh" so much? What does the way the Native Americans are portrayed tell you about how they were regarded? What about Wendy? Why do you think everyone assumes she will take the role of "mother" to them if they can only capture or keep her? Do you think a modern girl would either expect or want to take care of all those boys? Or would she rather engage more in their adventures? What does the way Wendy is portrayed tell you about how girls and women were regarded when this story was written? What is the message of the play? Do you think that message is still relevant today, even if some of the other elements of the play are dated?