Spectacularly inventive and — most of all — very, very funny, “Peter and the Starcatcher” (based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson) isn’t so much the story of the Peter we know, as the tale of a Peter that until now we’d never met. As the play begins, he is not the impish, magical Boy Who Never Grew Up, at least not yet; instead, he is a dirty, disheveled orphan, being shepherded across the seas with a host of other orphan boys to a remote island where — according to their sadistic master — they will be sold into slavery. There’s a heroic captain, fairy dust in a box, a sublimely evil villain named Black Stache who thinks there’s treasure out there for the taking… and, of course, the aforementioned island, where Peter becomes Pan (with the help of a mermaid) and everything ends, more or less, happily.
All the lads are played by men, and chief among them is Peter himself, portrayed with wide-eyed innocence and boyish uncertainty by Adam Chanler-Berat, who is excellent. Also standing out, despite her diminutive size, is Celia Keenan-Bolger as Molly, the little girl (and Starcatcher of the title) who bonds with Peter from the start. Spunky and strong-willed — the yin to Peter’s yang — she is a whirling dervish of excitement; you find yourself wondering who WOULDN’T follow her to the ends of the earth.


HAMMING IT UP: Tony Award winner Borle as Black Stache

The real star of the show, though — turning in a performance of such inspired lunacy that you dare not look away — is Black Stache himself, Christian Borle. There is no other way to say it: he’s even better than advertised. Flinging himself about the stage, drawing raucous laughter with the merest tilt of an eyebrow or curl of a lip, milking laughs like the consummate clown he is in moments that seem to last forever (watch for the scene in which he becomes — yes — Captain Hook; it’s priceless), Borle is a wind-up toy that never winds down, a perpetual motion machine.


The hilarious script by Rick Elice, the direction by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, the brilliant shipboard and island-bound sets by Donyale Werle, the costumes by Paloma Young (including those fetching mermaid outfits at the start of Act II: don’t ask!) … everyone and everything contribute to as entertaining an evening of theater as I’ve enjoyed all year.
(NOTE: Christian Borle’s final performance in “Peter and the Starcatcher” is scheduled for June 30.)


HIGH SEAS HIJINKS: Celia Keenan-Bolger and the cast of "Peter and the Starcatcher"

THEATRE REVIEW by Stuart R. Brynien