“A little swash, a little buckle. You’ll love it,” says the pirate soon-to-be-named Captain Hook, to the lost boy soon-to-call-himself Peter Pan.
There’s a lot more to the deliriously enjoyable “Peter and the Starcatcher,” the Tony Award-winning Broadway escapade, than that.
How about a chorus line of cross-dressing mermaids decked out with household utensils? A bounty of giggleworthy and groansome puns? Hearty songs, a little scary (but not too scary) business, a flying cat, and many irreverent, self-referential verbal and slapstick shenanigans?
The whiz-bang tour of the show visiting Seattle’s Moore Theatre (alas, only through Sunday) is a crackerjack adventure yarn inspired by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s popular novel “Peter and the Starcatchers,” a prequel to J.M. Barrie’s original tales of Peter Pan.
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But mainly, it’s a celebration of theatrical mirth and magic.
From the moment the dozen-member ensemble of ragtag orphans, scurvy pirates, one “insatiably curious and insufferably bright” young lass, a broody boy searching for a home, and a zany pirate king “with scads of panache” welcome you into their enchanted English variety-hall world, you are, well, hooked.
The Roger Rees-Alex Timbers staging follows a breakneck plot about whether a chest filled with mysteriously precious cargo will fall into the hands of Victorian-era goodies or meanies, as they wrangle over it on the high seas and a remote isle.
Now you, and any kids on hand (age 8 and up is about right), may not follow every scripted twist and detour, or every bit of winking wordplay strewn with modern slang. (The sound is a bit spotty in places, and the speed zippy).
But it is nonstop fun watching the actors switch roles constantly, becoming a wall of ship doors (and what’s behind them), a kickline of mermaids, a lusty-voiced chorus.
Donyale Werle’s set is a tribute to the dramatic art of recycling bits of rope, wood, old toys, kitchenware. Jeff Croiter’s shadowy shipboard lighting turns vibrant and tropical for an island grotto.
And the performers, several from the story-theater and improv capitol of the U.S. (aka Chicago), are tirelessly terrific, separately and en masse. John Sanders scampers and preens with self-delighted menace as Black Stache. During the painful behanding that turns him into Captain Hook, he milks a single gag for wave upon wave of laughs.
Joey deBettencourt boyishly transforms from a hurt, sulky foundling into an intrepid Peter Pan. Megan Stern is the pert heroine Molly, who speaks fluent bird lingo, and has a sweet spot for Peter. And Seattle-area native Benjamin Schrader (now a Broadway regular) camps it up as Molly’s cackling nanny.
A wise child I know compared “Peter and the Starcatcher” to a movie, and I take his point. It’s rather like an antic cartoon feature — but one that cavorts right before you, breathlessly alive, sprinkling starstuff in its wake.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org