Those who found the recent television broadcast of “Peter Pan” a little lacking in pixie dust can recapture the magic of the boy who won’t grow up in the joyous new TheatreWorks production of Rick Elice’s “Peter and the Starcatcher” in Palo Alto.
From start to finish, this tale of how Peter got to be Pan is a rowdy, rollicking romp full of out-size personalities portrayed by panoply of premier talent from the Bay Area acting community.
The whimsy of Joe Ragey’s delightful seashell encrusted set is the first clue that thinking magical thoughts is the order of the evening. Any doubts about the fun ahead are dispelled as the cast sets up the action to follow with Python-esque panache.
Director Robert Kelley, a Pan fan from Mary Martin broadcast days, has traversed the road to Neverland before and clearly relishes the opportunity to explore this pre-story cul-de-sac. He invests the production with a rich theatricality with big set pieces and intimate moments of discovery.
As the sole specifically female character, Adrienne Walters beautifully creates an invigorating portrait of girl power on the cusp of womanhood. Molly, the apprentice starcatcher, is strong and super smart, masking her occasional insecurities with a charming bossiness that keeps the lost boys in line.
One of those boys is Peter, and Tim Homsley artfully portrays the wounded orphan traveling the arc to joyous self-discovery. There’s a deep poignancy in Peter’s early haunted quality that Homlsey gently releases over the course of the evening to welcome newfound feelings of joy, adventure, community and love.
Doubling, tripling or more in major characters and minor bits is an outlandishly funny, fabulously fearless corps of sure-footed, quick-witted thespians.
Peter does not yet fly, but Patrick Kelly Jones absolutely soars as Black Stache, the man who would be Hook. It’s the kind of over-the-top performance that leaves you aching with laughter and Jones never hits a false note in his concerto of managed lunacy. By his side, with split-second timing, Suzanne Grodner’s Smee is the perfect off-set of drollness and hysteria.
The rest of the cast is gold. Michael Gene Sullivan and Will Springhorn Jr. get special notice for their hysterical Mollusk Island monarchs and Ron Campbell makes magical madcap moments of merry music with the alliterative Betty Bumbrake.
Though “Peter” is not a musical per se, musical director William Liberatore nevertheless makes the most of Wayne Barker’s interstitial compositions, the piece de resistance of which – the Act 2 opener – would be worth the price of admission even if the production weren not already such a spirited and sparkling joyride.
Peter and the Starcatcher
Presented by TheatreWorks
Where: Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
When: 7:30 p.m. most Tuesdays-Wednesdays, 8 p.m. most Thursdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; closes Jan. 3
Tickets: $25 to $74
Contact: (650) 463-1960, www.theatreworks.org