A Gold Star(catcher): Play Review

peter and the starcatcherImagine a group of people putting on a play in a backyard or living room. Handmade costumes are concocted from items found around the house, while the scenery is found in the depths of a trunk. When the “curtain” opens, you watch as the cast takes on more than one role, even sometimes acting as stagehands. Sure, you need your imagination a bit. But somehow, the craftiness of it all comes together like some whirlwind, thrift store machine, and you are totally transported.

This is exactly how I felt at Peter and the Starcatcher last weekend.

Based on the 2004 middle grade book by Ridley Pearson (Kingdom Keepers) and Dave Barry, this Rick Elice play tells of the story of how a young orphan boy without a name morphs into that familiar fellow, Peter Pan. In an innovative form of storytelling, the actors take their turns narrating, acting out the story, and creating the backdrop of a ship and even an island with minimal props (cleverly using themselves as the scenery at times and generating their own sound effects).

Think: hilarity and playfulness.

Because that is what Peter and the Starcatcher is all about.

I’m not sure I have ever laughed so much during a show. Like, head back, slapping my leg laughter. The pop culture references, the delivery, and the creative uses of household items to be made into bras – it’s not something you experience every day.

It’s like spending two hours in your favorite fairy tale, a familiar one, and seeing it through completely different eyes.

In the same way, you don’t want it to ever end.

Celia Keenan-Bolger delights as Molly, a take-charge kind of girl (with the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen), who has a secret – she is a Starcatcher, or half of one anyway. Her father, Lord Aster, is a full-fledged Starcatcher who is attempting to keep a trunk of “starstuff” safe from the wrong hands. You see, starstuff holds the power to make people’s dreams a reality… in a way they never imagined. When pirates threaten to take her hostage, Molly runs into a group of orphans on the ship, including Boy (who would later become Peter Pan).

While the whole cast is nothing short of spectacular, Christian Borle is at his best and then some. Let’s not even talk about Smash, where he plays part of a famous music team trying to get a Marilyn Monroe musical off the ground. (Although, thank the musical gods, he had a brilliant musical number this past week.) As the villain character Black Stash, Borle has created a flamboyant and downright silly manifestation – bringing a brand new dimension to the Captain Hook we have all come to know. For goodness sakes, Starcatcher reaches a whole new level of FUN when Black Stash takes the stage (sometimes stumbling), and who would have ever thought that to be true?

For all the funny moments, there is a little bit of romance as well, just like any worthwhile fairy tale, but it’s never overwhelming. It only silently and innocently snakes its way through the storyline. Plus, for all my sadness that Christian Borle was going to be in a play and not a musical, don’t fret! There are some musical interludes that fit in seamlessly with the story. It’s like a finding-a-dollar-in-your-coat-pocket kind of bonus.

It’s really hard not to compare Starcatcher to Newsies. After all, they both are Disney theatrical ventures and despite being different genres, I can’t help but feel that Starcatcher triumphed in a way that Newsies did not. Starcatcher’s story was tight, each character had a purpose and a story, and the pacing was perfect. While Newsies relied more on its songs and its dancing (sure it’s a musical but the book could have been stronger), Starcatcher has just the right blend of a strong story, compelling fleshed-out characters (MANY of them), and creativity by the buckets.

When it comes to seeing shows, I’m more inclined to enjoy one that feels organic and with Starcatcher, I felt like they were putting it on just for me, just that evening, with anything they could find to entertain. While there is nothing wrong with big dance numbers and lots of spectacle (hey, sometimes we need a little bit of that), the real magic of Starcatcher is in these people, who seem just like you and me, working together (with such precision) to tell a story. A charming and witty story and loving every ounce of it as they do it.

In its entirety, Starcatcher is a play that makes you want to hide up on stage, able to experience and re-experience your childhood, take the time to laugh your ass off, and remember that adventure is, indeed, out there (even if you have to meet a few crocodiles along the way).

And you don’t even need a pixie dust to get there. Just a theater ticket.

Starcatcher officially opened on Broadway on April 15th. Tickets are available at peterandthestarcatcher.com and you can follow their twitter account @StarcatcherBway. My husband and I did the lotto on a Sunday evening and won two tickets for 27 dollars each. (Our seats were on the left side of Row AA & Row A.) For more info on the lotto system and how it works for this show (because all of them are different), please check out this link.

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A book publicist who loves writing about Disney and books, and sometimes Disney books.

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