REVIEW: Play about a famous lost boy – PETER

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By Joe Dziemianowicz | April 15, 2012

Beaming with dizzy humor and delightful stage magic, Broadway’s “Peter and the Starcatcher” is a big dipperful of fun.

The “Peter Pan” precursor seen downtown a year ago is based on the 2004 book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.

Set in the Victorian era, the adventure yarn unspools a stream of abused orphans, pillaging pirates, coveted booty, shipwrecks, killer crocodiles and enchanted dust from fallen stars that changes anything — and anyone — it touches.

In taking the tale from page to stage, co-directors Roger Rees and Alex Timbers forgo the high-tech hydraulics of nearby “Wicked,” a long-running hit prequel.

Instead, with their talented design team, they create a bewitchingly theatrical world out of simple backdrops and props. How to stage a sea chase? Toy boats. A huge beast’s eyes and scary choppers? Red headlights and two ropes strung with white triangular flags.

A wacky mermaid bikini top? Kitchen utensils. It all works wonderfully.

For the most part, so does the adaptation by Rick Elice (“Jersey Boys”). He’s loaded the script with wisecracks, one-liners and witty asides. Youngsters won’t get a number of references, such as missing treasure being “as elusive as the melody in a Philip Glass opera.” But kids will get the gag (pun intended) about passing gas and be tickled. (I was, too.)

Some jokes strain and the story still stalls a bit midway through the second half. But improvements have been made since Off-Broadway.

A better soundscape lets the mix of sea chanteys and chorales ring clearer.

And the 12 actors, who all play more than one part and most of whom are reprising roles, are sharper than ever.

The crackerjack ensemble packs three grand prizes. Adam Chanler-Berat is brooding
and endearing as the legendary lost boy. Christian Borle, now of “Smash,” proves sublimely slapsticky as a prissy, malaprop-dropping pirate.

Best of the bunch: Celia Keenan-Bolger, whose high-spirited and big-hearted turn as the can-do aristocrat Molly is irresistible.

At its heart, “Peter and the Starcatcher” is a valentine for the power of storytelling to transform. Tales told within it ease lost boys’ woes and literally save their skin.

Peter Pan will never grow up. But his origin story has matured nicely.

Source: NY Daily News

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