PETER AND THE STARCATCHER Send This Review to a Friend
I don’t think the world was waiting for a prequel to “Peter Pan” any more than it was waiting for a prequel to “The Wizard of Oz.” Yet see what a hit “Wicked” has become, and I suspect “Peter and the Starcatcher,” an imaginative account of how Peter gets to Neverland, stands to develop enthusiastic followers. Although the first act merely displays modest charm, the second act takes off hilariously and the show, despite its sophomoric aspects, gathers force, largely as a result of the appealingly inventive staging and its admirably exuberant and versatile 12-member cast.
The play, written by Rick Elice based upon the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson and directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, has moved to Broadway after enchanting fans off-Broadway. It encompasses nutty adventures involving a sought-after treasure chest, pirates, a shipwreck, oddball types, puns, sight gags, flatulent humor, a Captain Hook-like character named Black Stache, the boy who becomes Peter Pan, a lone female in the company, and a host of props creatively used, including what passes as a cat tossed about. It is amazing what can be done with ropes and cloth.
There is music by Wayne Barker, and Steven Hoggett is credited for movement, of which there is plenty, sometimes including choreography. Donyale Werle’s set design is a major part of the show, and so are Paloma Young’s costumes, Jeff Croiter’s lighting design and Darron I. West’s sound design. All such ingredients come in one big cleverly integrated package.
Adam Chanler-Berat plays Peter-to-be, called Boy, who just wants to stay a boy, and the loose plot contrives to get him to Neverland. Celia Keenan-Bolger is Molly, the production’s energetic and charming lone female. The major show-stealer is Christian Borle, who chews the scenery with vaudevillian-style, hilarious antics as Black Stache. The scene in which he loses his hand is uproariously funny, complete with his double-takes, comic cries of pain and an assortment of strung-out facial expressions, each funnier than the last. Borle’s performance is in the tradition of the late comic icon Bert Lahr in full farce mode.
For me a highlight was the second act opening, the male company as mermaids in a South Seas-looking motif that calls to mind the male show number in “South Pacific.” The costume designer has gone to town with assorted breast enhancements and other frills that help make the swishy dance movements a riot.
There’s a point at which key characters face an unseen but loudly heard-dragon. All is geared to creating an imaginary world without needing to resort to elaborate, expensive scenery. The stagecraft is definitely a star.
I started off feeling only mildly amused by the concept, the cast and the production. But as the show went along, I was swept up in its spirit, mainly as a result of the consistent inventiveness but also because of the performances and the overall no-holds-barred craziness. And the memory of Borle’s comic shtick lingers delightfully. At the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 West 47th Street, $69-$121, premium $178. Phone: 800-745-3000.