Review of Peter and the Starcatcher at Theater Latte’ Da
Quote of the Day: On these magic shores children at play are for ever beaching their (tiny boats). We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we shall land no more. J.M. Barrie, from Peter Pan (Also, the quote that director Joel Sass uses in his “Letter from the Director” in the program for Peter and the Starcatcher at Theater Latte’ Da.)
Peter and the Starcatcher is a stage adaptation by Rick Elice based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Music by Wayne Barker and directed at Theater Latte’ Da by Joel Sass, Music directed by Denise Prosek. It’s the prequel to the story we know and love as Peter Pan, the authors’ imaginings of how they came to be the Lost Boys on the Island of Neverland, how Captain Hook lost his hand, and how Peter was connected to the Darling family whose windowsill he lights on, one magical night in London. Their ability to fly comes from Starstuff that is in one of the mysterious trunks that is stowed on board their ship, the Neverland.
In this tale, we have Molly (Megan Burns), a 13-year-old girl who is traveling with her nanny Mrs. Bumbrake (fun name, played by Craig Johnson) on the Neverland. Her father, Lord Astor (Andre Shoals) has sent her on this “safer” ship while he escorts the special treasure (the Starstuff) on board the Wasp. Our evil villain Black Stache (played brilliantly by Pearce Bunting) knows that the chests were switched and is determined to claim the special treasure as his own, but he doesn’t really know what it is. He is already bossing around his sidekick Smee (played by the delightful Adam Qualls).
Meanwhile, Peter (played by the amazing Tyler Michaels) and his mates Ted (Silas Sellnow) and Prentiss (Ricardo Beaird) are down in the hold of the Neverland. These orphan boys are being sold into slavery and treated horribly. Curious Molly follows Slank (James Rodriguez) down into the hold, thinking he’s going some place fun. In the meantime, she gets glimpses of the darker side to the ship, and discovers the tormented and starving boys. She comes to their rescue, leading them out of the hold, finding them food, and making plans for their escape. All the while she is protecting the Starstuff and trying to communicate with her Dad via magical amulets that they wear around their necks.
The staging of this play is brilliant and full of surprises. The old Ritz Theater (Theater Latte’ Da’s new home) is the ideal setting for this show that is part pirate farce, part Vaudeville slapstick, and all fun and cleverness. Director Joel Sass also designed the set, complete with a giant octopus draping the the upper front of the stage, like an undersea curtain. The stage has all sorts of hidden treasures on it, not the least of which that immediately caught my eye was something that looked like the innards of a piano with all the strings and a violin cleverly hanging on it. The actors used it and other items on the set to create sound effects or provide accompaniment for some of the songs. The songs are so expertly woven into the script that they don’t break up the flow of the show, rather they create the lifts and swells of sea song and mystery. All of the actors play various characters and work together in carefully choreographed scenes. Their timing is impeccable.
The second Act opens with a hilarious number where the entire cast is dressed like mermaids and sing a silly song complete with shell-shaped fans. The first Act takes place on board the ships. The second Act is on the island where the inhabitants aren’t at all welcoming of foreigners. The Mollusks have been burned by Englanders in the past, and aren’t about to be hurt by them again. Even when Peter, Molly, Prentiss, and Ted come up with a clever story and show kindness, their leader Fighting Prawn orders their execution, believing that one bad person from a country represents an entire culture’s attitudes and actions.
Peter and the Starcatcher is fun and funny, filled with clever rhymes and groaner puns, colorful characters, and adventure. Something for the whole family. It’s certainly not just a kiddie show. In fact, in the Friday night, preview audience, that I attended, I brought the only two kids in audience. I saw this show with one of my piano families. They introduced me to the delightful audio of the book, read exquisitely by Jim Dale (also narrator for the Harry Potter books). Our seats were on the side where we could set our drinks, or prop our elbows, on the ledge and get up close and personal to the action. Our own “Squid Poop” Molly was so close she was practically in the show! The girls are Middle School age and they loved it. They said they noticed differences from the book to the stage, but enjoyed the play as much as listening to/reading the books.
You can see Peter and the Starcatcher at the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis, produced by Theater Latte’ Da, through February 26, 2017.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Do you ever long to feel like a kid again? What do you do to bring out your inner child?