Forget the namesake of “J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan” currently taking off eight times a week in the round at the 360-degree tented theater downtown at Pemberton Place. We’d wager that most of the wide-eyed kids in the crowd would rather be Tinkerbell as portrayed by UCLA graduate Emily Yetter when they refuse to grow up.
To be sure, this is not your mother’s Disney-fied Tinkerbell, that innocuous theme park mascot who flits in to tap her wand on Cinderella’s castle, disappearing without a word. Yetter’s high-flying fairy in a dirty, torn pink tutu is loud, mischievous and none too fond of the relationship between Peter Pan and his new friend Wendy Darling (imagine “Absolutely Fabulous” actress Jane Horrocks playing a variation of her bewildering Bubble character in mid-air).
“No, Tinkerbell and Wendy won’t be going off shopping together as girlfriends,” Yetter tells us laughing during some rare downtime from her flying harness this week. “But I loved her as soon as I first read the script. She’s kind of mean, completely mischievous, fiercely devoted to Peter and so much fun to play!”
This CGI-enriched production beautifully merges the modern technology of a 360-degree theater experience (the audience soars with the characters over London rooftops) with the grittier 100-year-old source material from the Barrie novel. And Barrie’s Tinkerbell is no Mickey Mouse sidekick.
“She’s so beautifully described in the book, down to the apartment where she lives,” says Yetter. “At one point, Barrie describes her face is ‘distorted with passion.’ She’s a working class fairy too. She has a real ‘I won’t take nothin’ from nobody’ attitude that I love to play.”
Still, on some nights Yetter says she can feel the energy change in the seats below her as audiences get their initial dose of her fierce fairy.
“I can almost hear them thinking, ‘Did she just say ‘ass’ again?! And I’m up there thinking, ‘Oh, these people really don’t like me tonight. It’s OK. Just keep doing your job.’ You can receive a completely different reaction every night.”
But this decidedly modern, girl power-fueled fairy has her fans (Tinkerbell has her own gear for sale in the gift shop) too. “Middle-aged women love her in addition to the little girls,” Yetter says. “I love it whenever I hear that Tink is their favorite character because that tells me the story’s message is being properly told. Tink is full of passion and she always goes for what she wants and she’s completely fearless. Who wouldn’t love playing that every night?”
“J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan” has been extended through April 10 at Pemberton Place downtown. For show times and tickets, go to the show’s official website.