I first saw Peter and the Starcatcher when it was on a national tour based on the original Broadway staging. The sets, costumes, lighting, sound, and routines were all dazzling.
To my surprise, I did not miss the Broadway splendor in subsequent encounters with the play. In fact, my respect for the script has grown after seeing productions that focused on clear storytelling rather than shiny effects.
The most recent local staging, by Fly North Theatricals, just concluded a two-weekend run. The company’s resourcefulness and execution produced a terrific show.
Rick Elice’s script is based on a novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. The original and the adaptation are both prequels to J. M. Barrie’s play and novel about Peter Pan. Peter and the Starcatcher explains what brought the title character to Neverland and how he became a boy who could fly but not age. Origin stories are also provided for Tinkerbell, the mermaids, the crocodile, Captain Hook’s injury—even the name Neverland.
The magical elements in Peter and the Starcatcher are the result of starstuff, a material that comes down from the heavens and confers supernatural powers. A small group called the Starcatchers is dedicated to gathering starstuff and disposing of it before it can be used for the wrong purposes. Two characters in the play are part of this group: Lord Aster and his 13-year-old daughter, Molly, who is his apprentice.
Their mission at the start of the play is to drop a trunk filled with Starstuff into an active volcano in the remote kingdom of Rundoon. They set out on separate ships. The real trunk is on one ship; a decoy is on the other.
Molly is on the Neverland. It is also carrying three boys from an orphanage who are being delivered to the King of Rundoon. Lord Aster is on the Wasp, which is taken over by pirates.
Fly North’s production was the first in Greenfinch, the company’s new home at 2525 South Jefferson Avenue—the former site of the Way Out Club. The space under renovation and still has columns that will eventually be removed. Scenic and lighting designer Bradley Rohlf and props designer Kel Rohlf cleverly incorporated the columns into the set as masts aboard the ships and trees on land.
Sleepwear was the basis for most of the costumes by Sam Hayes—an apt reminder of how the Darling children were dressed when they first met Peter. Hayes completed the costumes with character-specific items that were easily changed by cast members playing more than one role.
Peter and the Starcatcher was a part of Fly North’s Theater For All Initiative, which puts professionals on stage with the company’s students. All the portrayals were fully committed and highly enjoyable under the direction and musical direction of Colin Healy. The cast was impressively coordinated in the enlivening choreography by Carly Niehaus.
The admirable performers were:
- Connor Becker as Slank, Hawking Clam and others
- Langston Casey as Smee
- Parker Collier as Black Stache
- Ryan Dabbs as Fighting Prawn
- Dizzy Funke as Alf and others
- Byron Jenkins as Scott, Grempkin and others
- Sarah Lantsberger as Ted
- Ella Penico as Lord Aster and others
- Dustin Petrillo as a boy
- Jacob Schmidt as Prentiss
- Tateonna Thompson as Molly
Because a cast member left the show too late to be replaced, Mrs. Bumbrake, Molly’s nanny, was portrayed as a sock puppet. This choice turned out to be inspired. The scenes with the puppet were delightful. The puppeteers were Thompson, Dabbs, and Funke, depending on whose character was the puppet’s main scene partner. All three were well schooled in the requisite style for playing Mrs. Bumbrake, which comes from British pantomime.
Finally, an occurrence at the final performance is worth mentioning. Just before Black Stache’s big scene, a young member of the audience brought the house down with a spur-of-the-moment response to the action. Collier had the presence of mind to wait for the laughter to subside, acknowledge the aptness of the spontaneous reaction, and build on it as he continued with his performance. Collier was one of the students in the cast, but in this unplanned moment, he could not have been more professional.
Photo by Ashley Casey