Peter and the Starcatcher, the delightful Peter Pan prequel just transferred to Broadway (at the Brooks Atkinson), adopts the spirit of its intended audience: like children, the cast and crew make much of little by using their imaginations—and rely on the audience to do the same. The ensemble restores the aspect of play to plays: the show is proudly low-rent, like a living-room production by your most precocious nephew, with plungers for swords and nothing but a rippling rope and some green lighting to create a scene underwater. “Pity the child who lives in a fact-based world,” growls the proto-Hook villain Black Stache (a roaring, indefatigable Christian Borle).
Based on Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s children’s novel, the play finds Peter (Adam Chanler-Berat, most recently seen playing Mark in Rent) as an orphan, before he has a name, stowed in the bowels of a ship, en route to be sold into slavery. Aboard this vessel, called the Neverland, he meets a young woman, Molly (Celia Keenan-Bolger), with whom he will battle pirates and protect precious “starstuff”—presumably, the source material for fairy dust.
Their Nickelodeon adventures, first on the ship and then on an island, are acted out with inexhaustible enthusiasm; co-director Alex Timbers (here, with Roger Rees) also brought such goofy giddiness to his previous Broadway productions, The Pee-Wee Herman Show and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Like those modestly scaled shows, Peter‘s spirited staging, its loveable inventiveness, serves as a rebuke to the extravaganzas occupying neighboring theaters. It reinforces a valuable moral: despite bloated budgets, no multimillion-dollar spectacle can out-wonder an imaginative mind.
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