Broadway Theater Review: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (Brooks Atkinson Theatre)

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by Harvey Perr on April 27, 2012

in Theater-New York


I hadn’t realized how deeply entrenched in my unconsciousness the Peter Pan legend was; that is, until I found myself, in the last minutes of the rousing and miraculously innovative Peter and the Starcatcher, gently weeping.  Not that the show in any way jerked tears out of me – make no mistake, its primary goal is to provide unalloyed pleasure – rather, it’s a feeling that’s just there; deep in one’s soul, as it were.

This Peter has nothing to do with James M. Barrie’s Peter (except, of course, that it could not exist if Barrie’s Peter didn’t).  This is the saga of an orphan named Boy, who is yet to become Peter, the boy who never grew up.  Based upon a Disney-commissioned novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and written for the stage by Rick Elice (one of the co-authors of Jersey Boys and The Addams Family), Broadway Theater Review - Peter and the Starcatcher – photo by Joan Marcusthere was no reason on earth to look upon this venture with anything but skepticism.  Formulas on Broadway are no better than formulas in any other medium.

What I didn’t take into account was what wonders could be created by theater magicians – and that is exactly what co-directors Roger Rees and Alex Timbers are (and who, in turn, are brilliantly aided by the breathtakingly and genuinely soaring movement conceived by Steven Hoggett) – and by an ensemble of gifted actors who become a single organism in their ability to transform movement into character and character into movement.

This brazen entertainment has all the innocence of the best children’s theater (and by all means, take the children) and all the sophistication of adult artists who take Broadway Theater Review - Peter and the Starcatcher – photo by Joan Marcusthe wildest dreams of children and know how to turn them into the very real things that are possible in a theater.

There are pirate ships and sea battles and lost islands and trunks full of stolen treasure; there are models of skullduggery as well as models of Victorian aristocracy; and they dance, swirl, fly above, and swing below; and all of it is done so simply and so easily, and without the “spectacular” effects that are pretty much destroying the idea of spectacle on Broadway these days.  (Part of its joyous beauty is owed to its theatrical secrets being discovered first at the La Jolla Playhouse and then at the New York Theater Workshop.)

Broadway Theater Review - Peter and the Starcatcher – photo by Joan MarcusAlthough I insist that this is first and foremost an ensemble piece, you are going to hear a lot about Christian Borle’s bug-eyed, whirligig of a Black Stache (whom you will see, as the play progresses, is going to become the Captain Hook we love to hate).  There isn’t a single moment of comic business that Borle does not stand on its head.  Still, it would be unjust to praise him alone when he gets such fabulous support:  from Celia Keenan-Bolger, for example, as the admiral’s daughter (who has a more-than-sisterly affection for Adam Chanler-Berat as the winsome and oh-so-likeable Boy); from Arnie Burton as a nanny with a roving eye for the bearish Alf (Greg Hildreth); from Matt d’Amico, who makes autocracy seem pixie-like; in fact, one is apt to fall in love with all of them…especially after their deliciously campy song at the top of the second act.

You will indeed feel enchanted as you leave Peter and the Starcatcher, shaking off the fairy dust that may have landed squarely on your shoulders.

photos by Joan Marcus

Peter and the Starcatcher
Brooks Atkinson Theatre
scheduled to end on January 20, 2013
for tickets, visit

{ 1 comment }

Alan Mandell April 29, 2012 at 10:31 am

I agree totally with your review. I loved this play. The imagination displayed is
thrilling. I will see it again now that it’s on Broadway.

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