“Catch” PETER AND THE STARCATCHER…

Yeah, sorry, I couldn’t resist using that blog title. Also, I’m sorry this post is so late. I blame it on the wonderful Easter weekend at home. AMAZING time but it meant I spent the weekend hanging with my family instead of writing this post…enough with excuses, Ammirati, on to the review…

Ok, so just a Spoiler Alert – heads up. If you don’t want to know anything at all about the show, you may not want to read the full review below. I mean it’s not like I’m giving a blow by blow of the plot or anything (the butler did it. Heh.) but I do discuss some detials that you might want to avoid. So, if you hate anything with even a whisp of a spoiler about it you’ll want to stop reading after this paragraph. If you want the spoiler-free version of the review here it is: Go see Peter and the Star Catcher!!!! It’s awesome and magical and well worth your time and money. Tickets available here. For the less spoiler-averse read on…

So, as part of my association with TRU, I have been interning with Broadway producer Jane Dubin, on her off-Broadway show, unFRAMED (which after a short successful run in Philly, is returning to NY June 4th – 16th as part of the soloNOVA Festival. For details and tickets go here.) In addition to her work on unFRAMED, Jane is also one of the Co-Producers for the new Broadway show, Peter and the Star Catcher and she was able to get me a ticket to see one of the preview performances last week. Written by Rick Elice and based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Star Catcher tells the story of how a sad orphan boy becomes Peter Pan. Peter and the Star Catcher is directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers and stars Christian Borle (Black Stache), Celia Kennan-Bolger (Molly) and Adam Chanler-Berat (Boy/Peter) and it is a wonderful, hilarious, and thoroughly enjoyable show. Similar to the experience of a Pixar movie, the play is appropriate for young audiences (10 and up) but is also a hilarious and moving experience for adults as well.

The play is great fun from start to finish but the┬áthing that stood out the most for me was the inventiveness and originality of the staging. I’ve seen my share of both theater and movies and I love both mediums for their ability to entertain in completely different ways. But, what I love most about theater is that, necessity being the mother of all invention, theater requires an audience to use their imaginations in ways that film does not. In my own directing, I love, during a rehearsal, when a moment that seemed all but impossible on the page, comes to life in an unexpected and beautiful way. Like turning 5 actors and 2 chairs into a mob attacking a car on a Cairo street as we did in Dreamers of the Day, or turning a stack of used books and 5 actors into a slow motion book ballet as we did in Skin Flesh Bone. Peter and the Star Catcher is filled with moments like these. Without any high tech tricks or special effects, the creative team manages to bring the audience onto 3 separate ships sailing the high seas (both on deck and below), to the forest of a tropical island (complete with trees and sandy beaches), and into the depths of a magical pond (populated by mermaids). Using simple sets and props the cast members believably create a sense of movement and space at the same time they’re able to clearly define the various locations the story takes them to. And, all of the “special effects” in the play are executed not by feats of engineering but by choreographed movement, lighting and sound effects. Ingenius and yet simple techniques that make the play come to life create the magic of theater making the audience believe – fully believe – what they’re seeing on stage. The Peter and the Star Catcher team even manages to levitate an actress during the show – it’s a pretty cool effect (the secret of which I will not reveal here) – and though I figured it out, my knowledge of how they did it in no way diminished my enjoyment of watching it be done. Along the way the 12 actors introduce close to 100 different characters some of whom are familiar to fans of the original Peter Pan (I myself couldn’t wait to meet Tinkerbell and I wasn’t disappointed). The creativity of the staging isn’t just amazing, it’s inspiring (especially for this director).

The performers (actors and musicians, as there is some music in the play) are all clearly having a good time and their fun is infectious as they draw the audience into the party. All of the actors in the show are amazing, but I’d like to call specific attention to Celia Keenan-Bolger and Christian Borle. Celia Keenan-Bolger plays the precocious 13 year old, Molly. Learning to be a Star Catcher like her father, Molly befriends young Peter and is the first to play the “mothering” role for The Lost Boys that will, in later incarnations of the Peter Pan story, be played by the character Wendy. The Molly character requires a very difficult mixture of youth and maturity balancing moments of childish excitement and wonder with the strength and drive of an older woman and Ms. Keenan-Bolger strikes that balance with skill and grace. And, Christian Borle (in my opinion criminally underused in the television show SMASH) revels in the devilish fun of playing Black Stache (the pirate villain who will become Captain Hook) and takes the audience along for the hilarious ride. He tears into the role with great enthusiasm and it is an absolute blast to watch. Top to bottom, the play is a joy but don’t think that means it’s light on substance. As with the Peter Pan story the themes of abandonment and loss and fear of growing up are present and very real. They’re just a little hidden for the younger members of the audience and I only wish my niece and nephew (the 9 year old not the 18 month old) lived closer so that I could take them along to join in the fun. And it is great fun…for ALL ages. So, yeah, in case you can’t tell Peter and the Star Catcher is an INCREDIBLY entertaining show and I HIGHLY recommend seeing it.

Peter and the Star Catcher currently in previews, opens April 15th at The Brooks Atkinson Theatre 256 West 47th Street. For tickets and more details go to the show’s website here.