There is something absolutely magical about watching “Life of Pi” at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on W. 45th Street. This production, based on the novel by Yann Martel and adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti, is a five-time Olivier Award-winning play and is absolutely breathtaking. The creativity of the puppetry for the Tiger (named Richard Parker), a zebra, giraffe, orangutan, goat, and hyena are brilliant to behold and mesmerizing to experience.  

“Life of Pi” is a story of how we choose in our minds to recall a situation that most of us would have wanted to forget. It tells the engaging story of a boy from India named Pi, whose family ran a zoo. They had beautiful animals and he, his father, mother, and sister all took care of them. The family experienced a lot of political unrest in the country, which made it unsafe for them to stay and operate their zoo. 

Pi’s father wanted the best for his family, so he booked them passage on a cargo ship to Canada, but the ship capsized. Pi was the only surviving member of the voyage. When the play opens, Pi is in a hospital room and being interviewed by a Japanese official to learn what happened to the ship and its inhabitants. 

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Pi, being a child, has a fantasy version of what happened that reflects a great deal of imagination and depicts him surviving on a small boat with various animals that survived after the ship sank. The descriptions he gives are made very real and graphic as we watch them play out on the stage; a different version of the story reveals something much more tragic. 

What you come to realize about this young man is that he was able to keep his faith in God and believe that he could survive. He went through a horrible experience and proved that there is a greater power out there and a higher calling that enables us to survive, no matter what terrible things happen in our lives. 

Despite what he has endured, not only surviving at sea for hundreds of days and being the only human left alive, but also realizing that what he lost on that voyage was everyone dear to him, Pi is still able to face the day and try to have a sense of humor, a love of life, and—most importantly—hope.

This is an inspiring story of the beauty of the human spirit that helps us see the importance of having strong faith in your life. 

The cast is led by Hiran Abeysekera, who is an Olivier-Award winner for this role, which he originated in the West End. He plays the role with such innocence, sincerity, and pure sense of hope that you have to be encouraged. He is joined by a cast of poignant actors that includes Brian Thomas Abraham, who plays Cook/Voice of Richard Parker; Rajesh Bose, who is wonderful as the Father, concerned for his children to see the danger that the world holds for them; Avery Glymph as Father Martin/Russian Sailor/Admiral Jackson; Mahira Kakkar as the Nurse/Amma/Orange Juice (Orangutan); Kirstin Louie as Lulu Chen; Salma Qarnain as Mrs. Biology Kumar/Zaida Khan; Sathya Sridharan as Mamaji/Pandit-Ji; Daisuke Tsuji as Mr. Okamoto/Captain; Sonya Venugopal as Rani. Company members include Nikki Calonge, Fred Davis, Rowan Ian Seamus Magee, Jonathan David Martin, Betsy Rosen, Celia Mei Rubin, and Scarlet Wilderink. Andrew Wilson also plays Royal Bengal tiger “Richard Parker.” Mahnaz Damania, Jon Hoche, Usman Ali Mughal, Uma Paranjpe, and David Shih are also part of the company.

The production is stunningly brought together with the delicate, careful direction of Max Webster. This is a theatrical experience you will long remember. 

Olivier Awards went to many members of the creative team. Set and costume design are the work of Tim Hatley; puppetry and movement direction by Finn Caldwell; puppet design by Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell; video design by Andrzej Goulding; and lighting design by Tim Lutkin. Other members of the design team include sound designer Carolyn Downing, original music by Andrew T. Mackay, and wig design by David Brian Brown.

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