Life of PI opens on Broadway (Courtesy photo)

The theatrical adaptation of The Olivier Award-winning play “Life of Pi” — a transfixing story about an Indian teenage boy stranded on a lifeboat, in the Pacific Ocean, with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger he named Richard Parker has officially opened on Broadway.

Lolita Chakrabarti did the stage adaption of Yann Martel’s best-selling novel LIFE OF PI. The intellectual property was also made into a film which was directed by Ann Lee (2012).

Where do I begin? To say that “Life of Pi” is a fantastic production is an understatement of gigantic proportions. The seamless cast and crew are coming off a successful run in London, winning five Olivier Awards, including best new play. Recreating their critically acclaimed performances for Broadway is “Best Actor” winner Hiran Abeysekerain, the role of “Pi” and “Best Supporting Actor” winners Fred Davis and Scarlet Wilderink, who join the “Richard Parker” puppeteering team.

After a cargo ship sinks in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, a sixteen year-old boy named Pi is stranded on a lifeboat with four other survivors – a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger. Time is against them, nature is harsh, and who will survive? But this taunt play begs us to examine Pi’s story deeper. And under Webster’s direction, this story begins to peel back layers that could and should, make most people very uncomfortable.

I can’t say that “Life of Pi” is a family-friendly show despite the brilliant puppetry. Because of the complicated subject matter and the graphic nature of certain acts performed on the boat, I find that specific images are forever seared into my consciousness.

“Life of Pi” also benefits from a first-rate team behind the curtain, which is essential to bringing this story to life. Those gifted artisans include Set and Costume design by Olivier Award winner Tim Hatley, Puppetry and Movement Direction by Olivier Award winner Finn Caldwell, Puppet Design by Olivier Award winners Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell, Video Design by Olivier Award winner Andrzej Goulding, Lighting Design by Olivier Award winner Tim Lutkin, Sound Design by Carolyn Downing, Original Music by Andrew T Mackay, Dramaturgy by Jack Bradley, Wig Design by David Brian Brown, and Casting by Stewart/Whitley.

The road to Broadway began across the pond, in London, at Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End, won the five Olivier mentioned above Awards. The show made history as the first to win the Olivier Awards. The seven performers playing the Royal Bengal tiger “Richard Parker” were collectively awarded “Best Actor in a Supporting Role.”

In reviewing the London production for The New York Times, critic Matt Wolf wrote that the appeal of the production in London’s West End “lies not so much in blunt pronouncements as in the visual wonder of a bare stage yielding to richly imagined life.” That is my point, exactly. This show seems into your head and lives there.

The show refuses to let the audience go without providing enough material for self-reflection. In a statement, Chakrabarti called the show “a story of survival which all of us can fundamentally relate to after the effects of the pandemic.” She added, “to be able to tell this story the way I imagined it, to create the world using my references and viewpoint, has been an extraordinary gift.”

And I leave you with my last warning. Despite the lure of the puppets and the pull to want to treat young kids to the Broadway experience, this isn’t “The Lion King” by any stretch of the imagination.

Animals [puppets] die — horribly. How can they not? Pi is sharing a tiny lifeboat, at first, with a small group of animals from his family’s zoo in India, as represented by large-scale puppets, including the ravenous Royal Bengal tiger, Richard Parker, that takes three puppeteers to operate. Pi’s survival is a miracle, and his story is too wild to be believed. So the play, in the third act, gives an alternative of events — devasting — but as his father told him, back in India in act one, the most dangerous animal of them all is man[kind].

You can enter the “Life of Pi” digital lottery the day before the performance at Tickets range from $49 – $199 (including a $2 facility fee). The playing schedule for LIFE OF PI is Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm, with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm and Sunday at 3 pm. Please note there will be no 2 pm performance on Wednesday, March 15, and March 22. Beginning Tuesday, April 4, 2023, the LIFE OF PI performance schedule is as follows: Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm, Wednesday and Friday at 7:30 pm, and Saturday at 8 pm, with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm, and Sunday at 3 pm. @lifeofpibway on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

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