Peter and the Starcatcher” has arrived on Broadway, and the subtle improvements made since its run at New York Theatre Workshop — which left me decidedly nonplussed — have turned this into a charming piece perfectly pitched to a family audience, as one would expect from the Disney theatrical team.
While the story remains intact as a prequel to Disney’s “Peter Pan” and has precious little in common with J.M. Barrie’s original — based as it is on a Disney-Hyperion novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson — the theatrics have been turned down a few notches in the current staging. The result is a piece that is accessible and wisely more intent on clarity of narrative than on reveling in its own cleverness. Directors Roger Rees and Alex Timbers deserve credit for the excellent fine-tuning of their original work.
Where the first act seemed frenetic and unclear previously, the story now emerges as the primary motivating device, and the creative use of the company and a handful of props to create the scenes — including ropes, boxes, and pieces of fabric — organically supports the narrative rather than competing with it. The second act flows fluidly out of the first so by the end of the piece, we feel that we’ve gone on a full journey with the characters.
Most importantly, the piece has found its heart. That heart is what draws us into the story and gives it a human center. That has made all the difference.
The cast remains largely intact from the original production, and they have all grown into their parts wonderfully. Celia Keenan-Bolger is terrific as Molly, Adam Chanler-Berat is consistently winning as the Boy who becomes Peter, and Christian Borle is hilarious as Black Stache.
In reviewing the New York Theater Workshop production, I said that the show didn’t seem to know its audience. Well, it’s found it — anyone with a remnant of a child’s sense of wonder and a delight in theatrical storytelling will find “Peter and the Starcatcher” irresistible.
PETER AND THE STARCATCHER | Brooks Atkinson Theatre | 256 W. 47th St. | Mon.-Thu. at 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m. | $59-$129 | ticketmaster.com or 800-745-3000