Zoë's Theater Review: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER
Published: May 30, 2012 - 9:11am
Second star to the right and straight on til morning leads you much closer than you’d think; to the Brooks Atkins Theater on 47th street in Midtown, Manhattan. This is where you'll find the critically acclaimed production Peter and the Starcatcher, a minimalistic origin story of Peter Pan and Captain Hook.
Peter and the Starcatcher is based off of the best selling children’s novel of the same title by Pulitzer Prize winning author Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and has garnered 9 Tony Away Nominations since it’s opening on April 15th, 2012, including Best Play. But be warned: though it's whimsical themes are childlike, this play is not for children. Sure, there are plenty of youngsters who will be thoroughly entertained by the boisterous fanfare unfolding on stage, but this show -- with all it's quirky subtext and theatrical innuendos -- will much more easily be adored by an adult audience.
The story unfolds quickly, so you'd better be ready for a deluge of information thrown about from the eclectic cast of characters including a young "star catcher" in training, a flamboyantly narcissistic pirate and the Boy who would one day become Peter Pan. The cast is lead by Christian Borle, theater veteran and star on NBC’s TV show Smash, as Black Stache in an extraordinary Tony nominee performance. He steals every scene he is in, acting so outlandishly with every fiber of his being that as an audience member it’s just as much a joy to watch his self-relishing villainy as it is to notice the other performers on stage try to not laugh at his antics. The rest of the cast, including Celia Keenan-Bolger as Molly and Adam Chanler-Berat as Boy, is one of the most fluid and in sync ensembles I’ve seen in years. Every individual on stage is filled with unparalleled enthusiasm. It’s apparent when a cast truly believes in the show they are performing, making the experience a million times better.
Aide from the wonderful performances, the most astounding element of this play is its set design and use of props. In many of the most recent Broadway productions, directors have relied too heavily on using an over abundance of stage decor, spending millions of dollars to force audience members to believe in the story being told. But theater is not film, and when it tries to attain the same level of visceral immersion it loses it's charm. However, Peter goes back to the purity of theater: creativity and imagination.
Only basic props are used, and are used more than once. The white flags on the ship in act one are then later utilized as crocodile teeth in act two. When characters sword fight on stage with bits and pieces of wood, a clang of metal is heard instead, giving us the freedom to fill in the blanks ourselves and believe in the magic of story telling. Isn’t this what made theater enchanting to begin with? I hope that future productions take note of the success of Peter and realize that heartfelt simplicity is a thousand times more effective than gimmicky costumes and expensive prop works.
Tickets for this production range from $35 to $135+, which is a deal compared to other shows currently playing in the area, and I cannot encourage you enough to spend your money on a ticket. The writing is incredibly intelligent and witty, catering to the child in every adult instead of children themselves. While the humor may very well go over the heads of kids, the show is so visually captivating that audiences of all ages should find enjoyment in it. I laughed, I cried, I marveled in the magic and I once again believe in the boy who never grew up. For someone like me who to this day can be swept away in a most enchanting bedtime story, I couldn't have asked for a better one.