by Kelly, Manager of Group & Partner Services
The Brooks Atkinson theatre has been transformed into a playground for the imagination with the new production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” – currently in previews.
Officially opening April 15th, “Peter and the Starcatcher” delves into the backstory of how a lonely, nameless orphan with a distrust of all adults and a nefarious pirate looking for a true hero to forever be his adversary embrace their destinies of becoming the beloved characters we know as Peter Pan and Captain Hook.
Sailing aboard a ship called the “Neverland,” the nameless orphan simply called Boy encounters a free-spirited and determined young girl named Molly Aster. Molly is hiding an intriguing secret – her father, Lord Aster, is one of a handful of “Starcatchers,” who have been tasked by Queen Victoria to protect and ultimately destroy a trunk full of fallen “star stuff” (bits of fallen stars that have magical properties), so that the masses will be safe from its powers. Molly, in fact, is an apprentice “Starcatcher,” and is intent on being useful to her father on this, her first important mission. Mucking up the works is a pirate named Black Stache (who earns the name by sporting an impressive black mustache), who is under the misinformation that the trunk is carrying treasure – which he is intent on stealing.
Molly enlists the help of Boy and two other orphans who are being held below deck to help her protect the “star stuff,” even when the “Neverland” crashes and they are forced onto a nearby island full of irritated natives and one very creepy mermaid. As the quartet of heroes attempts to complete their mission, Boy comes to terms with his wish to “just be a boy for awhile” and adopts the moniker of Peter Pan, ending with an ultimate battle with Black Stache that solidifies their future of being foes forever.
A sprinkling of “star stuff” is felt by every audience member as the magic of this fantastical story is brought to life using unorthodox methods – making the imagination of the audience a necessary tool. The 12-person cast has its work cut out for them, as the cast (including the leads) plays over 100 different roles combined. Pop culture references are mixed with sporadic songs and sophisticated dialogue, leading the audience on a whirlwind adventure. I, for one, loved every second.
The actors leading the magical journey are Adam Chanler-Berat, Celia Keenan-Bolger, and Christian Borle as Boy/Peter Pan, Molly Aster and Black Stache. All three are veterans of the Broadway stage – Chanler-Berat boasts credits in “Next to Normal,” and the current Off-Broadway revival of “Rent,” while Keenan-Bolger is still fresh from her City Center Encores! production of “Merrily We Roll Along,” and is also known for the “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” as well as the revival of “Les Miserables.” Borle is the most recognizable of the trio – though his hefty list of Broadway credits includes (among others) “Spamalot,” “Mary Poppins,” and “Legally Blonde,” he is making quite a mark these days on TV, playing songwriter Tom Levitt on NBC’s “Smash.” The only member of the trio I was not previously familiar with is Chanler-Berat – I am a big fan of “Spelling Bee,” and loved Keenan-Bolger in “Merrily,” and I fell heavily into the Christian Borle fanclub the night I moved to New York City and saw my first Broadway show – “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” where he was playing the leading role of Jimmy (I’m also a big “Legally Blonde” fan – I admit it!).
The leading trio is exceptional – Chanler-Berat’s angsty “lost boy” appeal worked perfectly with Keenan-Bolger’s determined moxie as a young girl whose innocence is constantly battled by her growing awareness and looming adult responsibilities. While the two of them are exceptional, it is Borle’s portrayal of Black Stache that truly steals the show – which is hard to do in a cast full of terrific performances. Borle’s performance is full of extremes – angry outbursts, powerful comedic moments, and physical slapstick comedy – one scene in particular was so funny even Celia Keenan-Bolger had a hard time keeping a straight face on stage. The ensemble is just as skilled, rounding out every scene with heart and humor.
You would think that a show like this, one that sets the scene for a story as magical as Peter Pan, would be full of flashy costumes, light displays, and flying spectacles. The best part is – it’s not, and you don’t miss those tricks for a second. The imagination of a human being is highly underestimated these days, but “Peter and the Starcatcher” gives the audience a chance to make believe along with the cast – simple props assist in creating the world around them, including unforgettable characters like the giant crocodile that haunts Captain Hook. The set, while sparse in act one, turns into a magical island in act two, setting the scene for the transformation into the Neverland we have come to know and love.
It is truly rare when a show can make an audience laugh, cry, feel, and most of all…think, but this is indeed one of those shows. I was sitting in the midst of a wide array of audience member types, and every one of them – from the visiting Texans to my left to the 9-year-old boy out with his grandparents to my right – were entranced and under the spell cast by “Peter and the Starcatcher.” The power of make-believe is truly a great one…and it’s a joy when a show like this makes its way to Broadway and brings us all along for the ride. Don’t miss this magical journey at the Brooks Atkinson theatre.
Contact us for your Peter & the Starcatcher tickets at firstname.lastname@example.org!