Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Happy Birthday J.M Barrie!

In honor of what would have been Sir James Matthew Barrie's 162nd birthday had he managed to spend his days in his own Neverland and not grow up, I am going to take a moment to advise you all to fly, don't run or walk to go see Peter and the Star Catcher. While I was never particularly impressed with the book, the stage adaptation, which I have now seen both at New York Theatre Workshop and on Broadway, is a theatrical experience that does Barrie proud.  And hey! It's even Disney related.  Though not advertised as such, Disney Theatrical does have a credit in the program, and the novel was a Disney published piece.   We shall not however speak of the Disney movie, which to be fair I've seen only a small handful of times as I never liked it, being a 1960 Mary Martin musical fan all the way.

Peter and the Star Catcher is a celebration of theatrical craft.  The night I saw it last week on Broadway, it was clear that you really have to love theater to appreciate this play.  There was a pair of old ladies behind me who clearly did not understand what makes this play so very special and they were quite vocal in their dislike.   It's helpful to know the conventions of the original Peter Pan as they play with them a lot.  I am particularly fond of the end of the second act where the Boy Who Will Be Peter mimics a moment from the original play and uses his shirt as a sail.  I love the parallels between the Nana in this play and the dog Nana in the original play.  The commitment of the cast to the staging and the physicality they use makes me really wish that there was a Tony award for an overall ensemble.  I could pick out individuals for praise, but I can't imagine the show without anyone of the people in the cast.  The musical opening of the second act in particular I could watch many times over and still find new things to appreciate as each cast member brings something unique.  The play is hysterically funny, if you like comedy along the lines of Monty Python.  There's everything from body odor jokes to jokes about Ayn Rand.  Overall, though, it is the simplicity of belief in the theater that makes this play shine, something that is at the heart of Barrie's Peter Pan as well.

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