Curtains: Great Arizona Puppets' Peter Pan III: The Night of Nights

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So much bouncing. So much squealing. I love to watch young audiences. They're better than the show -- but that's true even when the show is really good, like the productions of Great Arizona Puppets. And everybody quiets down and sits still when the lights change and Tinker Bell opens the curtain.

Peter Pan III: The Night of Nights is the third and final part of GAPT's somewhat epic James Barrie-based Pan series. As an in-house summer show, it's able to be longer, bigger, and a bit more elaborate than the under-an-hour pieces the company tours with (although I'm sure it could tour if required). A whole slew of ninja-like puppeteers and numerous perky marionettes scamper around atmospheric sets on the venue's big stage. Act I: The Lost Boys' subterranean home. Act II: The deck of Hook's ship. Bring. It. On.

The performance is recommended for people in kindergarten and older -- it has an intermission and everything -- but if the kids are a little younger, consider just bringing a designated adult to whisk them outside if they're fussy. You won't be the only ones. Pirates do get killed, and good guys get threatened, so keep that in mind.

One of the things I love about GAPT's original scripts is the little verbal asides and ad libs and jokes that crack me up and sometimes, not always, go right over the kids' heads. One of the pirates is named Two-Eyed Pete. (Okay, maybe I'm easy.)

I needed to duck in and see the opening day of this show, so I'll mention a couple of things that'll probably be fixed by the time you go: a few moments of dead time waiting for music cues or "entrances," and some muffled voices in some of the offstage dialogue and the songs -- cool songs, by the way, that you won't have heard in the Disney or Mary Martin/Sandy Duncan/Cathy Rigby versions. With dance numbers. Danced by puppets.

And how these people sing and act as beautifully as they do while wearing black hoods and masks and operating huge puppets is pretty impressive. I can't call them superstars enough times.

Matinees of Peter Pan III: The Night of Nights continue through Sunday, August 16, at Great Arizona Puppet Theater, 302 West Latham Street. Tickets are $6 and $8. Call 602-262-2050 to make a reservation.

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