Peter Pan in Chicago
Actor Ciaran Joyce plays the title role in "Peter Pan," with actress Emily Yetter, as Tinker Bell, by his side during a limited engagement run in Chicago through July 10. Photo by Kevin Berne

The master of lifting moods has always been Peter Pan, the eternal boy who faces everyday woes and worries with carefree abandonment.

It's not just his gift of flight, but also the emphasis in the importance of believing.

A half century before Oprah Winfrey was preaching this message or Rhonda Byrne wrote her 2006 best-seller "The Secret," Peter Pan was already sharing his success as a high-flying star, with actress Jean Arthur (later replaced by Mary Martin) portraying the boy from Neverland Island in 1950 opposite actor Boris Karloff as Captain Hook.

And now, after a six-year absence, an entirely new treatment of "Peter Pan," preserving all of the traditional touches while enhancing the overall experience, has come to Chicago and it's this summer's thrilling, magical must-see.

Courtesy of threesixty° entertainment in collaboration with Broadway In Chicago and Chicago Tribune Freedom Center North, make no mistake that this spectacular production of J M Barrie's classic story invites audiences into a wonderful fantasy realm that far exceeds the last Broadway in Chicago stage visit in 2005 starring gymnast Cathy Rigby in the title role.

This new "Peter Pan" is the smash hit that's now here through June 19, direct from London and it's performed in a state-of-the-art theater tent for this limited engagement. (The tent, which stands 100 feet high, was shipped via boat, 6,000 miles from London to San Francisco to get here.)

Conceived by an award-winning creative team and featuring 22 actors, clever puppets, beautiful music, dazzling flying sequences and the world's first 360-degree CGI theater tent set, "Peter Pan" is an unbelieveable-believeable fun family experience. The climate-control temp tent seats 1,300.

This show, which is NOT a musical, but does have a couple quick song moments, is housed along the Chicago River in a lofty, elegant tent compound in the parking lot of the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center North 650 W. Chicago Ave.

This "Peter Pan" first captivated audiences in London, where it started performances May 26, 2009, in Kensington Gardens, where Barrie was first inspired to write the story.

Actor Ciaran Joyce is incredible in the title role, filled with energy, fearless timing and a likable demeanor. Emily Yetter plays a prickly, light-blinking Tinker Bell, great as this ill-tempered fairy. Lots of high-flying acrobats abound courtesy of these two, even after they are joined by honest talent Evelyn Hoskins as Wendy Darling and solid acting duo Tom Larkin as John Darling and Scott Weston as Michael Darling, her daredevil brothers.

Steven Pacey is a perfect Captain Hook, every bit the entertaining bad guy who can draw the audience.

Add to all of this mermaids, a rowdy gang of pirates, an Indian princess (the alluring Heidi Buehler) and a very cool, huge puppet tick-tocking crocodile constructed from wooden hangers, neckties, socks and boasting wooden clothespins for teeth, and the stage is set for excitement.

But even better, are the technical features about the "Peter Pan" theater pavilion:

• The entire interior of the tent is lit with more than 15,000 square feet of Hi-Resolution video -- three times the size of Imax screens -- so that both cast and audience are immersed in a CGI Neverland.

• When Peter and the Darling children fly to Neverland, the audience flies with them over 400 square miles of virtual London and beyond.

Tickets are $20 to $75 and premium tickets include a prime seat location, tote bag and souvenir program. FYI: (888) 772-6849 or or

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.