Perhaps the most inventively preposterous play ever to hit Broadway is the prequel to the Peter Pan story, Peter and the Starcatcher, at the Brooks Atkinson Theater. Opening on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, this fanciful lark features two ships at sea, two trunks, one filled with sand, the other, eh, you must believe, stardust. Animated by pirates, lost boys, sea captains, a mermaid chorus, a nanny, and a girl, the play adopts clever uses for kitchen gadgets: you will see your veggie steamer in a new light, not to mention your hand juicer. That is if you have a hand, which as you may recall is a problem for a certain pirate. Here, an accident becomes an opportunity for a gag. Says the pirate to Pan, "You have singlehandedly singlehanded me," and so on for groan-and-guffaw-worthy one-liners.
A nameless orphan, The Boy (a sweetly desolate Adam Chanler-Berat), justifiably distrusts grownups. Helped by a precocious 13-year old Molly (a wonderful Celia Keenan-Bolger), he learns bravery, and earns his name. The Black Stache is performed by the utterly elastic Christian Borle of Smash fame. If that television show is about making theater from scratch, this show could be its perfect laboratory in the art of engagement. Much of the flying, menacing crocodile, and icy waters are experienced where they will delight, thrill and scare you most, in your head.
Responsible for this artistry are the directors, Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, from Rick Elice's adaptation of a 2004 novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, as well as a very talented team including Donayle Werle for sets, Paloma Young for costumes, Jeff Croiter for lighting and Wayne Barker for music. Roger Rees, the veteran actor known on these shores since The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, likes both acting and directing; he laughingly claimed that the producers wanted something like Nicholas Nickleby, and thought he was capable of the job. He recently performed in The Addams Family. Co-star Brooke Shields was in the star-studded audience, as were Laura Osnes and Nathan Johnson, Laura Benanti, Debra Messing, Katie Finneran, Tovah Felshuh, Steven Pasquale, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Jerry Zaks, among many others.
Oh, yes. One viewer did complain that the dastardly pirate never did get his appropriate prosthetic device for which he was henceforth named. Never mind, at the afterparty at the Skylight at the McKittrick Hotel, pizza was served on hooks.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.