PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Peter and the Starcatcher, a Prequel That Really Flies

By Harry Haun
16 Apr 2012

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Co-directors Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, who skippered the show into a safe harbor after five and a half years, wore Naval caps to the after-party held at The McKittrick Hotel on West 27th Street, where Sleep No More normally spooks.

"I think this is a story about people eventually taking responsibility for their lives," opined Rees. "Peter actually learns to become Peter Pan, and it's a sweet-and-sour decision because Peter Pan will never have a family. He'll always be looking through the window at others. To be a boy forever is what perhaps we all wish for, but maybe it might not be as sweet as that. To take responsibility for your life is a good thing."

Both pooh-poohed the problems of co-directing. "It's been great," Timbers, in fact, said. "Roger and I come from very different backgrounds, but we like the same kinds of shows and have the same tastes. That helps us. I take things away from Roger, he takes things away from me. What has come out of it is my fondest collaboration."

Rees agreed. "We've both directed lots of other things, but working together — it's wonderful to have a buddy, there by your side when you can work something out. If things you've experienced in your directing days don't quite give you the answer, it's fantastic if you've got someone with you there. We've become such allies."

There was a third wheel calling the shots as well — Steven Hoggett, who is credited with Movement and keeps the show in a constant state of that (as he did with Once and Black Watch). "Steven's a choreographer and he is also a movement-stager," Timbers said. "He gave us a masculine, aggressive movement that was exactly what we needed for this. Sequences had been there for three years, and just having his eye on it to tune it up made everything so much better. He's going to be doing the fights for Rocky [the musical], and they are so realistic and exciting and terrifying. I just can't wait to work with him again."

Although Peter and the Starcatcher calls itself "a play-with-music," the big mermaid drag number that begins the second act may just be a better, funnier, richer routine than can be found in most so-labeled musicals. Hoggett worked overtime here.

So did the motley dozen on stage. "I live in my body," flaunted the chubby Greg Hildreth about his dance routine. "There's something very special about doing a play-with-music. When those musical moments do happen, they're almost ten times more rewarding than in an actual musical. It, somehow, is able to propel the story forward and, also, treat the audience to a good time."

Celia Keenan-Bolger
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Even in anything-goes, over-the-top, male-drag routines like this, Christian Borle manages to steal the scene, suggesting everything from silent-film's Ben Turpin to The Roadrunner. "Roger and Alex and Rick have given me free rein," he said, "but they've also made sure to say, 'Sometimes, it's best to leave the audience wanting a little more.' I think that's the trick with Black Stache — keep him driving it forward."

Adam Chanler-Berat is the Peter Pan of the occasion — actually, a wannabe trying to find his way into the iconic in-charge child we know and love. "When I was in the eighth grade," he recalled, "I played Hook, and Pan was played by a female [hey! It happens]. The most resonant Peter Pan that I know was 'Hook,' that movie with Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman, which I was enthralled with when I was a kid. I must have watched it 18 times."

"I have not loved being in a show this much maybe ever in my life," trilled Celia Keenan-Bolger, who just happens to be the only female in the cast of 12. "That could be part of it," she allowed, "but it has a lot to do with the people I'm doing the show with. I have such a great respect and love for these guys. They're some of the greatest people I've ever worked with.

"I just feel so grateful to get to play this role. I feel like so much of the character was there before I got there, but then what happens when you work on a show for three years is that the writer starts to write to your strengths so I'm really grateful to have Rick Elice help me bring this little girl to life.'

Her new hubby, actor John Ellison Conlee gamely played Norman Maine while the paparazzi peppered her with flashes. For the record, she wore a pleated strapless blue jade dress from BCBG Max Azria.