Ah, Peter Pan. The touching and heartfelt story of the boy who wouldn't grow up and the children who came along for the ride. When we got tickets for the production of Peter and the Pirates at The Off Broadway Theatre, I knew that it wouldn't be a straightforward production of Peter Pan. The OBT is known for their cheesy, farcical, tongue-in-cheek presentations. Still, the title didn't suggest anything too off the wall and the poster definitely depicted what I would expect from Peter Pan, so part of me wondered if they were actually going to "play it straight" and just do the standard Peter Pan story.
I hadn't had a chance to look in my playbill as the play began so at first I thought the child actors were mispronouncing names due to trying too hard to affect a British accent. I quickly realized that they were in fact calling the boy who wouldn't grow up by the name "Peter PUN." Now I understood...and with that, the wordplay was underway.
We spent the next ~2 hours on a fun-filled slapstick adventure with Peter Pun and his friends from Everclever Land as they fight Captain Crook and his henchmen save Sego Lilly and have a pile of other adventures. While all of the characters were definitely taken to the limit in terms of humor and fun, the most outrageous stretch was Peter's fairy companion, now named "Jingle" and portrayed by a large middle-aged muscular man with a mullet, tutu and multi-purpose tool belt.
There were plenty of absolutely cheesy and groan-worthy plays on words such as the pirates pulling out the "Gatorade" to save the Captain from the crocodile. Most of the wordplay was lost on the younger kids but everybody laughed up a storm at the great physical humor such as the pirate who ends up sword fighting against the handrail leading up onto the stage…and losing.
The "4th wall" is broken on many occasions both unintentionally and very intentionally such as jokes aimed at people sitting in the audience. The OBT definitely allows for this sort of cheesy humor where it feels completely acceptable for the cast members to be laughing along with the audience. The atmosphere of the theatre is very conducive to this more "casual" type of theatre.
Sadly the theatre is a bit run down with some tears in the curtains, chairs that are more spongey than springy and a sound system that leaves something to be desired. While this run-down atmosphere does make it seem more natural that the production is cheesy and more casual, I certainly wouldn't complain to see some of the furnishings get an upgrade. In fact they are currently doing a fund raising drive to get a new sound system. A donor has agreed to match funds raised by patrons to help purchase the new sound system. We threw in a few dollars and hope they meet their goal.
Our whole family really enjoyed this show. It's got just the right level of low-brow humor that we could all laugh at. None of the jokes were risqué or off-color, even those that were over the heads of the younger audience members. The set and effects were low budget but were very well done. This being Peter Pan (oh, excuse me…Peter Pun), I was curious how they were going to handle the flying sequences. They did limit actual flying to a single scene of the play but I really loved the way they did it. They are always super creative and fun in handling their lower budget with great style and creativity.
The show plays Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays through mid-may. If you're in the Salt Lake City area and up for a laugh, you should give them a try. My kids are now begging us to go see the next show…The Lone Texas Walker Ranger. I have a feeling that the Off Broadway Theatre may become a semi-regular family tradition for my kids like it was for me growing up. :)
4.5 out of 5 stars
(NOTE: Photos were taken from the OBT website. I claim no credit. Many more great images are available in their Facebook Photo Stream)