Peter And The Starcatcher
Should you be looking for a joyous adventure teeming with enormous imagination and creativity - appreciated and enjoyable to all ages, shapes and sizes – then stop by the Brooks Atkinson Theater for a couple of hours.
March 28th, 2012, marked the first night of Broadway previews for what is now a major theatrical event titled “Peter and the Starcatcher.” In Spring of 2011 it ran off-Broadway at the New York Theater Workshop and the buzz was incessant. Never underestimate the power of “word of mouth” — the best critique in theater – and the stir caused by “Peter and the Starcatcher” was consistently positive. It gathered praise, raves and standing room only audiences. This NYMW run sold out quickly after extending — a sure sign of a possible move to Broadway. I was quite fortunate, thanks to my editor (thank you so much, Jess!) to be present at this initial preview evening for what was certain to be a charming romp of wonder and fun…and then some.
“Peter and the Starcatcher” is the prequel, the prelude, the backstory of the novel “Peter Pan” by J. M. Barrie. We learn how “Boy” morphs into Peter Pan, travels to Neverland, and will not grow up. I thought well, of course…an idea whose time has come…and I admit that I totally underestimated the dazzling, diverse possibilities here.
I giggled, roared, laughed, cried and finally marveled at the unique vision and sheer talent at work in this play with music. A spirited cast of twelve, led by an amazing trio – Tony winner Christian Borle in a blistering performance as “Black Stache”, Celia Keenan-Bolger, a stand out as “Molly” and Adam Chanler – Berat as the deceivingly simple “Boy” - becomes a cast of one hundred in the blink of an eye thanks to the brave, bold vision of the playwright, Rick Elice. The novel of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson served as the basis for his story line, but I sense that the incredibly clever word play, delivered with rapid fire precision, stems from Elice’s unique confident ear for stage dialogue and delivery.
The crafty set design is deliberately minimalist so the audience is immediately and totally engaged and absorbed in the dialogue and fast action on stage…less is more. This clever script becomes the set, it literally sets the stage. A few bits of rope, bric a brac, a little bit of “this and that” actually frames a visual you don’t have in front of you! Your mind/eye coordination is consistently tested…blink and you will miss something vital. This is a cast that quickly outpaces you, you have to keep up, they travel from zero to sixty in mere seconds. Verbal athleticism and mental gymnastics abound.
We read the novel; many of us know the Broadway musical score and the Disney movies.
Ignore them all, this is another realm, a new dimension. Such an original twist — not only to the story line but in manner of presentation, the blocking and movement on stage leaves you breathless. However, there are no stage tricks necessary here, it’s all ephemeral perception, far more then meets the eye is present both on and off stage. We mentally connect the invisible dots craftily drawn by the playwright.
Of course, an amazing depth of talent in the ensemble cast vastly contributes to the creation of this spot on narrative. Yet without a strong underlying foundation that lies with the playwright’s aural skills and thoughtfully crafted dialogue, a dazzling evening of theater would elude us. Imagination and intelligence are the “I”s needed by cast and audience alike. This plot is in our mind’s eye, the action in our cognition. Such a subtlety woven journey, this can only happen in live theater. Everyone involved in bringing this show from page to stage deserves accolades, a courageous venture indeed. Take warning…the bar has been admirably raised. Quite a challenge awaits the audience at the Brooks Atkinson Theater, who knew?
Now in this immediately gratified, dumbed down, albeit high tech, at-the-ready world we inhabit…when does THAT ever happen? Don’t expect the usual flying sequences identified with Peter Pan…but better be prepared to soar to exceptional heights.WHERE: Brooks Atkinson Theatre 256 West 47th Street New York, New York
By: Joanne Theodorou