Its always a difficult proposition to transform a novel into a stage play – if you staged a novel page for page, it would probably run at least six hours if not much, much longer. So it may be a little unfair of me to suggest that Peter and the Starcatcher should be even shorter than its two acts and two hours. But, sorry to say it, that is exactly what keeps this fun and occasionally thoughtful roller-coaster ride of a show from being a true knock-out.
Both novel and play mine the idea of telling Peter Pan’s backstory, full of British Empire intrigue, orphans, magic and, yes, pirates. Playwright Rick Elice’s jokey adaptation slims the novel’s epic quality down to a manageable length, yes, but there still remain many moments where the audience is well ahead of the script. There’s also several moments that are muddied by different production elements fighting each other for attention. The production was co-directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, and indeed this is one of the more over-directed shows I’ve seen in a while.
This is quibbling, however, since Peter and the Starcatcher is generally very engaging and entertaining. As often as they muddy the waters, Rees and Timbers even more often successfully find ways to assist Elice’s storytelling with simple yet appropriately magical theatrical means.
Plus, the cast is clearly having the time of their lives, especially Smash‘s Christian Borle as the way-fey pirate captain Black Stache – he once tells a monster to stop eating his scenery, which actually seems like an understatement. Adam Chanler-Berat is rapidly becoming the city’s go-to actor for evoking the joys and challenges of heroic adolescence. His portrayal of the proto-Pan “Boy” looks at this from directly the opposite angle of his take on Rent‘s “please-let-me-grow-up-right-now” Mark, and is every bit as effective.
I had a good time and more than a few laughs at Peter and the Starcatcher, and have no hesitation in recommending it as mildly thought-provoking – but mostly just really charming – entertainment.
For tickets, click here.
To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.