All superheroes get origin stories – so why not the flying, fighting Peter Pan? That's the premise behind "Peter and the Starcatcher," which opened last week on Broadway. It's not surprising the concept piece works so well, since it shares the Great White Way with "Spider-Man" and "Wicked." Originating at La Jolla, it was off-Broadway in 2011 before landing one year later at Brooks Atkinson Theater.
Billed as "the Neverland you never knew," the play promises a new spin on the protagonist most often imagined as an animated imp – or, for the previous generation, Mary Martin. Considering that both those references were musicals, it's not surprising this one offers music and even songs – but it's mostly a straight play, with lilting, alliterative dialogue reminiscent of a bedtime story.
"Peter" uses a sparse set, fun costumes and inventive props to forward the plot. It relies on audience imagination to fill in the rest; for example, only a dozen actors play more than 100 characters. Many theatergoers may be out of practice, since much of today's commercial fare would rather hit you over the head. But as you open your mind to this format, you're able to engage with the material in a playful way that you might remember from before you broached the too-cool cusp of adolescence. Here, you're invited to embrace silliness and laugh heartily out loud. With license to enjoy a tale of pirates, pixie dust, man-eating crocs and lost orphans who overcome all odds, even solemn adults can revisit a more mature version of the magic of childhood.
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Molly (Celia Keenan-Bolger) is a young girl traveling the high seas while protecting a trunk full of "star stuff." This golden dust allows anyone – or anything – it contacts to fulfill dark ambitions or achieve desires of the heart. During her voyage, she encounters an orphan boy (Adam Chanler-Berat) locked up in the bottom of her barge. Both must learn what they're made of when pirates (led by Christian Borle of NBC's "Smash") raid the ship and everyone becomes stranded on a not-quite-deserted island.
If you go
'Peter and the Starcatcher'
Brooks Atkinson Theater
256 W. 47th Street