Luz San Miguel. Photo: Michael S. Levine
When Peter Pan made its debut in Milwaukee in the spring of 2010, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. Community Outreach Coordinator, Lori Flanigan, and I sat in the aisle for most of the shows that weekend. The first flying scene blew us away, by the end of Act II – we were hooked (pun intended!) The end of Act II is in my own personal top ten best theatrical moments I’ve been lucky enough to see. During the curtain calls that night, I remember standing up, cheering wildly next to Lori and hearing her proclaim, “I’m a believer!” The show’s magic potion had worked – we were enthralled! Michael Pink’s ballets tend to have that effect.
This show is a production bigger than anything perhaps Milwaukee Ballet has ever done. It is quintessential Michael Pink – big sets, gorgeous costumes, sword-fighting and flying, a real family story with characters you care about deeply and of course - believable magic. They really are flying; that must be a real Saint Bernard on stage; Tinkerbell is morphing from a flitting light into the nursery as it out of thin air! Just as you feel like vampires are real at the end of Dracula, so too does it seem that there’s a Neverland somewhere out there, second star from the right.
The lead-up to Peter Pan’s return has been hectic and busy but full of fun. For the last three weeks, Lori and I have hosted hundreds of students from schools coming to the Student Matinee this Friday. Our ResiDANCE partners (Clement Avenue K-8, Escuela Fratney, Hartford University School and Hmong American Peace Academy), among other schools, came to do their In the Studio visits and got a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Nana’s costume and Smee’s fatsuit (a sure cause for the giggles) and got to sit in rehearsals for half an hour watching the Company hard at work. Up until our last tour, most of the rehearsals were a bit slow-going for a group of expectant kids waiting to see Peter zig-zagging through the air, sprinkled with fairy dust. Finally during our last tour, we saw the dancers suiting up in their harnesses. Yes! Thirty students from St. Marcus got to see Tinkerbell’s entrance, Wendy, John and Michael’s attempts to fly and then their first flight through the London skies. Once again, I got goosebumps as I watched the kids watching the ballet. I love how transcendently magical the theatre is.
Peter Pan was created with children in mind, and to this day, the royalties that companies pay for doing it as a play, ballet, musical or any kind of performance, go to a fund at the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London to help ailing children. Although the copyright expired fifty years after J. M. Barrie’s death, Parliament made a special exception and restored the rights for as long as the hospital is in existence. In this same spirit, the Ballet is giving back to children in as many ways as we can in the spirit of Peter Pan and the magic it conjures.
As part of the Stein Angels fund (proceeds from Stein Gardens and Gifts Christmas ornaments sold at The Nutcracker) we are sending 100 children from Hmong American Peace Academy to the show; our Relevé and ResiDANCE students (500 of them) attend the matinee for free with generous funding from Northwestern Mutual Foundation and The Herzfeld Foundation. In addition, on Saturday night, we’ll have a special guest in the audience. Six year old Kaylen, who has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor, is coming to the show. She’s been a big fan of the Ballet, attending The Nutcracker Tea for the past two years – she’ll be in the audience with her family. Her older brother Thomas is a Peter Pan fan but Tinkerbell is Kaylen’s favorite. There’s no doubt that Luz San Miguel’s feisty, firecracker of a fairy will impress and delight her. We’re thrilled that Kaylen and all of the children attending our Student Matinee and regular performances will experience this awesome production. And don’t worry adults, you’ll feel the fairy dust! By the end, I’d be willing to bet you’ll be starry-eyed believers too.
Tickets are still available to Peter Pan, but they’re going quick. Call 414-902-2103 or visit www.milwaukeeballet.org
Director of Community Outreach