Review: 'Peter and the Starcatcher' Catches the Audience's Imagination

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

There’s a place where a rope becomes a stairway, yellow rubber dish washing gloves become flying birds, and strings of pennants—like at auto dealerships—become the fearsome toothy jaw of a giant alligator. It’s the magical world of “Peter and the Starcatcher,” the deeply creative play that sprinkled “Starstuff” on the audience at the Peabody Opera House last weekend.

The Peter and the Starcatcher Tour Company; Photo by Jenny Anderson

The Peter and the Starcatcher Tour Company
Photo by Jenny Anderson

This is the “Starstuff” that theater is made of: An ingenious script, insightful direction, some good music, a minimal set, and 12 talented actors playing dozens of roles in this prequel to “Peter Pan” that answers the age-old question, how did Peter Pan become the boy who never grew up? The show is meant for kids (not too young) and adults alike, with plenty of references that will sail over the heads of young ones but strike the funny bone of adults.

The Peter and the Starcatcher Tour Company; Photo by Jenny Anderson

The Peter and the Starcatcher Tour Company
Photo by Jenny Anderson

The play, written by Rick Elice (of “Jersey Boys”), co-directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, and based on the novel by St. Louis author Ridley Pearson and humorist Dave Berry, features much staging magic. A wall with doors formed by the actors enables Molly—the young heroine—to enter by opening one of the doors (an actor swings out forming a door). As she enters, the wall quickly reverses so we see Molly come into the room, and back again. It’s an enthralling effect, and just one of many. Megan Stern is a delight as Molly and a terrific role model for young girls: Brave, intelligent, witty and oh so charming.

The Peter and the Starcatcher Tour Company; Photo by Jenny Anderson

The Peter and the Starcatcher Tour Company
Photo by Jenny Anderson

Joey deBettencourt as Peter is acutely sincere and earnest, and John Sanders—as Black Stash the pirate—gives a tour de force performance as he glides, flips and struts through the show, sometimes channeling Groucho Marx but always leaving his indelible thumb print on the scene. The entire cast is terrific and it’s some of the strongest ensemble acting you are likely to witness. This particular cast has been together for eight months without losing a single performer—a rarity for a grueling national tour where actors typically drop out after a few short months.

Technically the show is supremely well-executed as well with sets by Donyale Werle, Paloma Young’s costumes, lights by Jeff Croiter, and Darron L.West on sound design. Music director Andy Grobengieser on keyboards and Jeremy Lowe—each perched high to either side of the proscenium arch—also do a stellar job.

“Peter and the Starcatcher” is a delight for the whole family, and with the rights to produce the show rumored to be released soon, you can expect to see copious productions across the country in the very near future. Don’t miss the next opportunity you have to witness this highly unique theater event.

Follow Christopher Reilly on Twitter @ChristoReilly

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