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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
PETER AND THE STARCATCHER
at New York Theatre Workshop

NEVER GROW UP
By JESSICA BRANCH


Peter Pan, of course, never wanted to grow up, and if all children’s theater were this enchanting, more prematurely jaded juvenile New Yorkers might join him, at least in spirit, in never-aging Neverland. Fortunately for those of us already well into adulthood, there is enough stardust (or “starstuff,” as the play would have it) in this show to keep us equally captivated.

Written by Rick Elice, based on the book of the same name by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, this sweeping adventure tale reveals the back story of Peter Pan: how a magical orphan and his unaging crew ended up on a mysterious island with a one-handed pirate chasing after them and a temperamental fairy in tow.

Told with an appreciation for the Dickensian drama of Victorian fiction, the play features a smart, bossy heroine, Molly (a feisty Celia Keenan Bolger), off on a secret mission with her martial father (Karl Kenzler); a group of mistreated young orphans, including the Boy who isn’t yet named Peter (Adam Chanler Berat); a self-dramatizing, swishy and surprisingly erudite but nonetheless ruthless pirate, Black Stache (played with enormous panache and a hint of Freddie Mercury by Christian Borle); missing treasure; identical trunks that get switched around; a shipwreck; a tropical island peopled by murderous natives; and magic, magic, magic.

The plot can get complicated, and the virtuosic verbiage may be over the heads of younger kids, but there are plenty of sight gags (and, yes, even fart jokes) to keep them entertained, while older kids will enjoy the play on Victorian verities (whenever the queen’s name is mentioned, everyone on stage jumps to attention and declares “God save her!”), the high adventure, and a few teen-appropriate tough choices, and their parents will catch the odd Shakespearean and even Homeric allusion.

But despite those siren lures (and I haven’t even mentioned the truly spectacular and carefully choreographed chorus of mermaids), it’s the stagecraft that takes the spotlight. Directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, Peter is most magical in its use of its actors to convey the swaying ship, a dank passageway, a tiny cabin, a bewildering jungle. With only a few props and the accompaniment of piano and percussion (music is by Wayne Barker), the cast shifts fluidly between portraying characters and backdrop, keeping the audience (of all ages) agog with wonder. The show’s a tour de force, and even though we barely meet Tinkerbell this time, there’s enough applause to keep her alive until the sequel.

 


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