Peter and the Starcatcher | Peabody Opera House

Peter-and-the-Starcatcher 75You could see Peter and the Starcatcher with no knowledge of Peter Pan and still leave wishing you could fly in the midst of all the magic.

Peter-and-the-Starcatcher 500

Based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Starcatcher is a magical prequel to Disney’s classic Peter Pan. The production chronicles the history of the boy in the green tights from Neverland who never grew up. It answers questions like, how Captain Hook lost his hand, the origin of Tinkerbell, why Peter never ages, and specifically who he was before he got the name Peter Pan. (When the play opens, he is known simply as Boy, an orphan without a name). What makes Rick Elice’s play so brilliant is that he manages to provide answers to the questions behind the magic of the Peter Pan we’ve grown up with, without losing a hint of charm, splendor, and adventure. And there’s a bonus — some much appreciated and enjoyable adult humor!

When the play opens, we are quickly introduced to the only female in the production, Molly (Megan Stern). If you’re like me, you’ll assume at first that she is Wendy, but go with it, all will be explained as the play progresses. Molly is quite young, 12 or 13, though she is quick to up that number when trying to convince the boys that she can be a quality leader. Also, to be fair, there is another female character, Mrs. Bumbrake (Benjamin Schrader), though there is a great deal of intentional humor surrounding the gender reversal in actor/character portrayal.

Molly’s father, Lord Aster (Nathan Hosner) departs on a ship called The Wasp, on a mission to deliver a chest to the Queen. He leaves Molly with Mrs. Bumbrake on The Neverland, which soon becomes a hostile dictatorship under Slank (Jimonn Cole). Molly finds companions in three orphan boys close to herself in age — the boy without a name (a.k.a. Peter, Joey deBettencourt), Ted (Edward Tournier), and Prentiss (Carl Howell). The Boy is quiet to begin with but relays his dislike of adults early on. Ted just wants food, and Prentiss wants to be a leader.

Over on The Wasp, we see that the ship has been overtaken by a group of pirates, led by Black Stache (a.k.a. Captain Hook, John Sanders). Despite his villainous role, Black Stache’s physical and verbal humor makes him one of the most likeable characters in the production. He’s extremely over-the-top and provides a lot of that adult humor I mentioned. Frankly, there’s nothing terrifying about him, but — as the cast themselves will remind — this production requires some imagination! Black Stache is seeking out a hero to counter him, and he thinks he has found that in Lord Aster. Except, at this point we’re in the middle of Act I, and it’s way too early for anyone, good or bad, to already have what they want! Black Stache opens up the chest to find that there is only sand inside. The chest with “starstuff” in it has been left on The Neverland. Essentially the equivalent of fairy dust, starstuff is collected by starcatchers like Molly’s dad, to be destroyed so that its strength cannot be taken advantage of. Black Stache heads for The Neverland, and so the action truly begins.

Peter and the Starcatcher is easily the most fast-paced, action-packed, family-friendly show I’ve seen on stage. I would recommend it for ages 10 and up, only because plot elements are likely to be lost on children much younger than that. A quick re-watch of Peter Pan beforehand might not hurt either, but you could see Peter and the Starcatcher with no knowledge of Peter Pan and still leave wishing you could fly in the midst of all the magic. | Megan Washausen

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