The national tour of the five-time Tony Award-winning "Peter Pan" prequel "Peter and the Starcatcher" lands in Chicago next week. And though "Peter and the Starcatcher" wasn't developed here, its arrival has the potential to highlight many of the strengths of the city's thriving storefront theater scene.
Four of the play's cast members worked extensively in Chicago theater before they were snapped up to tour. And many of the theatrical storytelling techniques should be familiar to area audiences who are used to watching literature transformed into creatively staged dramas.
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"Peter and the Starcatcher"Location: Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St., Chicago, (800) 775-2000, broadwayinchicago.com
Showtimes: Runs April 2-13; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (also Sunday, April 6); 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday (also Thursday, April 3, and Wednesday, April 9)
These are a few reasons why Skokie native and Jeff Award-winner Joey deBettencourt hopes that local theatergoers will take to "Peter and the Starcatcher" at Chicago's Bank of America Theatre. Cast as "The Boy" who eventually becomes Peter Pan, deBettencourt thinks hometown pride might factor into audience turnout.
"When the Broadway tours come to town, a lot of the time they're so separate from the Chicago scene," said deBettencourt, whose Chicago credits include Griffin Theatre's "Punk Rock" and "Flare Path." "But this is kind of fun because we're coming into town and we're going to have a lot of support from our local companies because it's got local talent in it."
Also in the cast are fellow Chicago theater veterans John Sanders, Nathan Hosner and Harter Clingman.
In addition, the creative side of "Peter and the Starcatcher" features a number of recognizable names. The show is an adaptation by Rick Elice ("Jersey Boys," "The Addams Family") of the young adult novel "Peter and the Starcatchers," co-written by Ridley Pearson and humorist Dave Barry.
The production is directed by Tony Award-winner Roger Rees, best known in the U.S. from his TV turns as Robin Colcord on the sitcom "Cheers" and Lord John Marbury on "The West Wing." Disney Theatrical Productions is also credited as one of the show's many producers.
And then there's the tale itself.
"Peter and the Starcatcher" provides a back story to J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan."
The show debuted off-Broadway in 2011 to such rapturous critical acclaim that the production moved to Broadway the following year where it was showered with awards by the end of the season. Then, in an odd twist, producers moved the show back to off-Broadway in 2013.
"Four of those Tony Awards were for its design, and this tour had all of the original team come back to work with us," deBettencourt said. "When we were teching the show in Denver, they all put the same care into getting the tour out and it's one of those things where you can see all the Tony Award-winning stuff onstage."
The company of 12 performers has also formed a close bond according to deBettencourt, largely because "Peter and the Starcatcher" is such an intensive and rigorously staged show that demands so much of its ensemble.
"For me, I'm getting picked up and tossed around a lot," deBettencourt said. "It's a really physical show that takes a lot of energy and a lot of focus, so it's kind of crazy because it's so exhausting, but that also makes it fun because it never gets old when you do it every night."