Go to Neverland by way of Chicago with “Peter Pan” at Tribune Freedom Center

When Peter Pan flies to Neverland at Chicago Tribune Freedom Center North starting in April, he’ll be surrounded by 400 square feet of virtual London. With contemporary technology, the classic play is performed in a 1,300-seat theater tent where audience members are surrounded by 360-degree projected movies during the live performance.

“The beauty of the CGI (computer-generated imagery) is it augments the story. It complements what’s onstage,” says Robert Butters, producer. “In the design, the creative team was trying not to overpower the story by making it a film. But where it has the most impact is on the flight to Neverland, which is best told through the interaction of flying and the backdrop of CGI.”

To bring Peter Pan to Chicago, a traveling crew of about 70 people will arrive in the city about 10 days before the performance and begin erecting the theater tent. Threesixty°, the company producing the play, handles everything from the set to the concession areas available during the performances. In addition to the stage and the digital imagery, the crew also supplies the puppets used in the performance, including a giant crocodile manned by two people.

“We have this large crocodile that’s been made out of items you’d find in a nursery, like coat hangers. It’s about 20 feet long. It’s pretty dramatic,” says Butters, who has four young children. Although the performance is recommended for children 5 and older, he says, younger children will definitely enjoy the show. “My 3-year-old is now a Peter Pan fanatic,” he says. “Even at that younger age, they are mesmerized because there’s so much going on.”

Children also will enjoy the Neverland Tours conducted 60 minutes before most shows, which let visitors look behind the scenes at how the show is created.

“If they’re interested in theater, it gives them a little bit more context to what’s done on-stage,” Butters says.

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