Book and Lyrics By Justin Moran and Jon Roufaeal; Music By Doug Katsaros and Adam Podd; Directed by John Tracy Egan and Justin Moran
Part of the New York Musical Festival
Off Off Broadway, Musical
Runs through 7.29.18
Theatre Row's Acorn Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street
by Angelina Joyce-DiBart on 7.29.18
Travis Nilan in Peter, Who? Photo by Theresa Stroll.
BOTTOM LINE: A hilarious musical take on the Spider-Man story, packed with energy, farce, and innuendo.
Does it take $65 million to make a great Spider-Man musical? No, it does not! You may remember the 2011 Broadway extravaganza Turn Off the Dark, complete with giant moving set pieces, aerial combat, outlandish costumes, and never-ending previews. Peter, Who? takes a pared-down approach, but what the musical lacks in spectacle, it more than makes up for in humor, pizzazz, and spunk.
Peter, Who? is the origin story of Spider-Man, telling us how he gained his powers and decided to fight crime. We follow Peter Parker (Travis Nilan) through the trials and tribulations of high school, meeting his romantic interest Gwen Stacy (Justine Magnusson), the ultimate “cool kid” Flash Thomson (Chris Evan Simpson), and a host of others. In contrast to other adaptations of the story, this musical takes an exaggerated, purely comedic approach. Even the death of Peter’s beloved Uncle Ben (T.J. Mannix) is played for laughs.
A vibrant energy is palpable from the moment the overture begins. The music by Doug Katsaros and Adam Podd starts your toes tapping immediately and keeps them going throughout. The vibe of Peter, Who? is pop-rock channeled through the dramatic lens of teenage angst—a foolproof combination! The cast approaches each song with full commitment and vigor, making even the most ridiculous moments completely true and warranted.
The set is sparse but highly effective. Vivid, pixelated comic book-esque images are projected onto the back wall to set up each location—“Midtown High,” “Aunt May’s,” and others. Handheld, oversized poster-board cutouts with bright colors and quirky details enhance the paper comic aesthetic.
The cast is beyond adorable. They fully embody the exuberant, larger-than-life world of comics. Each ensemble member plays multiple roles, ranging from high school student to hospital doctor to elderly neighbor. The physical and verbal comedy are cleverly incorporated, and the character development and storytelling are spot-on, thanks to the book by Justin Moran and Jon Roufaeal. While a few jokes overstay their welcome, the overall experience is simply fun.
Though there is some adult humor, it’s likely to go over the heads of most children, who will enjoy the show for its upbeat feel and over-the-top characters. This is a quirky retelling of a well-known story that features great music and piles on the laughs. I highly recommend it.
(Peter, Who? plays at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, through July 29, 2018. The running time is 1 hour 20 minutes with no intermission. Performances are 7/25 at 8, 7/26 at 1, 7/27 at 9, 7/28 at 1, and 7/29 at 9. Tickets were $32; for more information visit nymf.org.)
Peter, Who? is by Doug Katsaros and Adam Podd (Music) and Justin Moran and Jon Roufaeal (Book and Lyrics). Directed by John Tracy Egan and Justin Moran. Choreography by David Rossetti. Set Design by Justin Moran. Lighting Design by Josh Leibert. Sound Design by Tim Meola. Stage Manager is Sarah Herdrich.
The cast is Travis Nilan, Justine Magnusson, Chris Simpson, T.J. Mannix, Zoe Farmingdale, Dave Maulbeck, Robin Rothman Taylor, and Jon Roufaeal.