‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ Takes Fight… Err, Flight

Michelle Michalos |
Updated: May 21, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Where: The Brooks Atkinson Theatre
When: Opened April 15. Through Sept. 1, 2012

UPDATED: Nominated for nine 2012 Tony Awards, “Peter and the Starcatcher” introduces audiences to the back story of Peter Pan, “The Boy Who Never Grew Up.” Though he goes through hard times as an orphan, the spirit of the show and Peter’s battles are kept nimble and light — thanks in part to the show’s fight director, Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum, who’s had actors kicking, screaming and swashbuckling for 12 years.

“The beauty of the show, and a lot of its magic, comes directly from the imagination of the audience, being cued by the ingeniously used props and stage pieces,” says Grigolia-Rosenbaum. “The fights follow that example, and while there are echoes of Errol Flynn and of the fantasy genre seen in other Peter Pan stories, what you’ll get here is something entirely new and really special.”

"Peter and the Starcatcher," directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, opens on Broadway on April 15. Photo by Joan Marcus.

“There’s an amazing, DIY aesthetic for ‘Peter and the Starcatcher,’ and that carried over into both the props for the stage fights as well as the style in which they’re used,” Grigolia-Rosenbaum explained to MetroFocus.

“Instead of cutlasses or knives, we have a duel between two blood-thirsty sea captains where one wields a toilet plunger and the other is swinging around a broken-off table leg. The trick with the fight itself was trying to maintain the truth of what’s actually happening while still conveying that this is a life and death struggle.”

Distinct from other interpretations of Peter Pan, “Peter and the Starcatcher” delves into how Peter Pan came to be — from his travails as an orphan to his transformation into the leader of the Lost Boys, in Neverland. The play is based on Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s best-selling young adult novel, and features most of the original cast from the 2010 Off-Broadway production at New York Theater Workshop, including Christian Borle and Celia Keenan-Bolger.

Grigolia-Rosenbaum has worked with the production from its start, and already has Broadway under his belt with the show “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”


Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum discusses fight choreography and rehearses with members of Coyote Rep and the cast of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”

Though fencing was once his sport, Grigolia-Rosenbaum says he is not a violent person. “The entire thing is both an illusion, as well as an agreement between the actors, the fight director, and the audience that nobody is in fact there to see real violence,” says Grigolia-Rosenbaum of his career choice. “That the moment fight choreography passes this invisible line between believable and downright real-looking, the audience snaps out of the play and is suddenly fearful for the actor.”

Much like dance, fight choreography is highly nuanced, and ultimately seeks to ensure a performer’s safety by creating the illusion of impact and injury. Think of “The Pirates of Penzance” or “The Count of Monte Cristo” without sword fights, and it becomes clear that fight choreography can be one of the most expressive, energetic aspects of a production — and often vital to the story. “Violence, whether we want it to be or not, is a part of the human experience,” says  Grigolia-Rosenbaum. “Just like every other part of life on Earth, if people are telling stories, it’s probably going to come up.”


The cast and creative team of  “Peter and the Starcatcher” discuss what drew them to the show. Video courtesy of Playbill.com.

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