Theatre Review: “Peter And The Starcatcher” Is A Glorious Night Of Fun Theatre

“Ashley H. White directs this romp with levity and just enough looseness to let the audience know that nothing serious will be required of them for the next two and a half hours.”


 

“Peter And The Starcatcher” is the swashbuckling prequel to Peter Pan. Inventive stagecraft and an imaginative story come together to reveal the origins of “the boy who wouldn’t grow up” in this madcap music-filled adventure.

ONSTAGE in Bedford continues its season of premieres with the Tarrant County premiere of “Peter And The Starcatcher.” Drawn from the infamous characters created by J.M Barre in his Peter Pan novels, this Rick Elice play, based on the novel written by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson, tells the story of how Peter Pan became Peter Pan. In this version, he starts out as an orphan who has been an orphan so long that he has forgotten his name. He and two fellow orphan friends are being sold into slavery and transported on a ship called the Neverland. Pirates, looking for treasures untold, board the ship and we are introduced to the pirate captain known as Black Stache who becomes Captain Hook by the end of the show.

Peter is discovered by Molly, the Starcatcher’s apprentice, who immediately becomes a love interest. Yeah, he’s the boy who never grows up but remember, he’s stuck at 13 years-old and the adolescent pangs are ever present. So he and Molly, a girl who is much more adventurous than girls should be, find their collective bravery, defeat Black Stache, and unwittingly unleash the magic of the stars that create the Neverland Island we know from Barre’s books.

Ashley H. White directs this romp with levity and just enough looseness to let the audience know that nothing serious will be required of them for the next two and a half hours. Her use of people as set and background is innovative and fun. Actually, Rian Slay and Jacie Hood Wenzel are listed in the program as “Movement Ensemble.” I didn’t know what that meant either. They have no lines, they have no characters but they are essential to the entirety of the show in ways that is hard to explain. Think Greek Chorus….on drugs.

Mike Hathaway as Lord Leonard Aster (the Starcatcher) struts around the stage with the spilling-over-the-top arrogance required of one in the Queen’s high command. His daughter, Molly, who is also his apprentice, is supposed to be a thirteen-year-old girl. Dani Holway who plays Molly is not thirteen. I refuse to guess how old she is but she is at least more than 13. But I don’t care. She pulls off the roll with such eloquence, perfect timing and innocence that it doesn’t really matter how old she is. As I said, nothing serious is required while watching this performance.

Chapman Blake as Peter Pan is just adorable. As the only character who has to grow and change during the length of the show, he pulls it off without question. He’s been seen in minor roles/ensemble at Lyric and MainStage. I hope he lands more lead roles as he is a talented pleasure to watch.

The funniest part of the show is when Black Stache (Shane Strawbridge) and Smee (Joe Messina) break the fourth wall… which they do frequently. I know that it is 99% scripted but they interact with the audience in such a way as to make it seem completely off the cuff. It’s almost as if your friends down at the Elks Lodge are putting on a play. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. It is funny, light, somewhat irreverent at times and just good theatre. Strawbridge makes Stache so over the top that at times I thought he was pulled out from a classic melodrama somewhere. Indeed, in the second act, I almost expected there to be popcorn flying in and out of the audience. Thankfully that did not happen.

The unsung hero of this production is Kevin Cho. Kevin says nothing during the entire performance. He can’t. He’s the percussionist. His job is to provide sound effects for the pratfalls, the chase scenes, the mimed actions and just generally filling in spots that just would not be as funny without him. His technical prowess adds to the very imaginative lighting design by Michael B. Winters. Lots of quick lighting effects, snap changes and the occasional required mood lighting has him high on my list for the award season.

If there is a weak spot in the show it is John Wenzel as Fighting Prawn, the King of the Mollusks. He just seemed a little lost or maybe just out of place every time he was on stage. He did so well in the first act as the schoolmaster, I think maybe he just had an off night when he switched to the nonsense character of Prawn. Don’t let anything so small dissuade you from seeing this show. It is a beautiful, funny couple hours of nonsense that will leave you smiling and giggling the rest of the night and into the next day.

Now playing at ONSTAGE in Bedford thru April 9th

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