Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre to stage 'Peter Pan' with orchestra

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Many turn to the arts to whisk them away from reality for the duration of a performance or gallery visit. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will transport audiences to Neverland next weekend when it opens its 42nd season with "Peter Pan" with live music at the Benedum Center, Downtown.

J.M. Barrie's turn-of-the-century tale of Wendy, Peter Pan and his sidekick Tinker Bell isn't new to PBT audiences, who were treated to it during the company's 2006-07 season. This time, artistic director Terrence Orr selected an adaptation new to Pittsburgh by choreographer Jorden Morris, who formerly danced with Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

"This is a much more sophisticated kind of production," Mr. Orr said, noting the heightened difficulty of choreography.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 'Peter Pan'

Where: Benedum Center, Downtown.

When: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. next Sunday.

Tickets: $22.75 to $90.75 at 412-456-6666 or www.pbt.org.

Information: www.pbt.org or 412-281-0360 for details on community enrichment activities and pre- and post-performance talks.

But the piece doesn't skimp on theatrics. Characters soar through the air, face off in duels and dance amid the whimsical set pieces. "Neverland is a pretty magical place," Mr. Morris said.

He chose to bring the story to life on stage when a ballet company in Canada tapped him to create a work to alternate with "Nutcracker."

"I really tried to create a production that was accessible for the entire family," Mr. Morris said. For children, there is lots of adventure and colorful costumes, and for adults there are more sentimental scenes, such as when Mr. and Mrs. Darling express concern for their missing children through a pas de deux in the second act.

The ballet is set to music by British composers Sir Benjamin Britten, Eric Coates, Sir Edward Elgar, Ron Goodwin and Montague Phillips.

"I tried to use music that conceivably in my mind J.M. Barrie was possibly hearing at the time he was writing the story," Mr. Morris said.

The PBT orchestra, headed by Charles Barker, will perform the score. Live music "always adds that additional dimension of creativity and just another layer of artistic quality," he said.

The three-day run will feature PBT's full company, plus dancers from its graduate program and children. Artists who starred in PBT's last "Peter Pan" have been drawing on those experiences to help them ready for this one.

"This time, it's much easier to do Captain Hook," said principal Nurlan Abougaliev, who is reprising the role in addition to playing Mr. Darling. But nailing leaps and pirouettes with a hooked hand and sword is still forcing him to make adjustments, and the new choreography presents its own challenges, he said.

"I think always when you go to the see the theater there's a sense of being enlightened and feeling inspired about the fun and beauty of the art form," Mr. Orr said. "The dancers do things that us ordinary individuals cannot do, and it's great fun to be able to watch."

Sara Bauknecht: sbauknecht@post-gazette.com .


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