'Peter and the Starcatcher' Captures the Imagination
A wild romp into Neverland! Innovative set pieces, a dynamic cast, and plenty of starstuff make 'Peter and the Starcatcher' fly. This hilarious Broadway show has landed at the Wharton Center this week through January 26th.
The play was adapted from a similarly-titled novel written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, as a way of answering a simple but unanswered question from Pearson's daughter: "How did Peter Pan and Captain Hook meet in the first place?" It led the authors to consider other questions, such as how does Peter Pan fly, and what's up with his shadow?
Those questions are answered and more in this playful, charming musical play, the winner of five Tony Awards including Best Scenic Design - and for good reason.
Deceivingly simple sets transform into everything from dueling ships on the high seas to an island and even a crocodile's lair, thanks to the innovative use of set pieces like a piece of rope and the all-out physical performances from the cast.
With a cast of a dozen members, actors transform not just into multiple characters, but even become a row of doors. That notion might require your imagination, but isn't that the point of Peter Pan after all?
This type of set design and morphing does take a little while to get used to in the beginning, but once I got my sea legs, I was ready for the fun, wild ride. By the second act, the slow burn and set up of the story led to great comedic payoffs, particularly thanks to John Sanders as Black Stache (you might know him as the man who becomes Captain Hook).
A particular moment near the end of the second act is a standout for Sanders - I won't ruin it for those who will eventually see the show, but you'll know what I'm talking about when it happens.
The rest of the cast also gives it their all. Whether dressed as not-so-glamorous mermaids or leaning their bodies "Smooth Criminal" style to mimic the motion of a ship in the waves, 'Peter and the Starcatcher' shows how much fun it can be to depart grown-up world and play a little bit.
Despite the fact that children ages 10 and up are encouraged to see the show, there are plenty of laughs and references for the adults in the audience. From mentioning Starbucks and "Ermahgerd" to even name-dropping the city of East Lansing, these moments win over an audience who might be unsure about this "grownup prequel to Peter Pan."
As the lone female in the cast, Megan Stern is wonderful as the precocious and strong-minded Molly, the Starcatcher apprentice who hopes to impress her father, Lord Aster, and ends up at the helm of her own special mission.
Although the character of Peter Pan is seen as a hero throughout his many incarnations in film and literature, it is the Starcatcher, Molly, who shows will, courage, perseverance, and confidence. The Boy who became Peter Pan couldn't have done so without her.
In a world where young girls tend to admire that sassy little pixie named Tinkerbell, 'Peter and the Starcatcher' gives those girls a new hero in the spirited Molly. She might not be able to fly, but she has the right stuff.
At its heart, 'Peter and the Starcatcher' provides an origin story that we'll never, never forget.
See 'Peter and the Starcatcher' at the Wharton Center through Sunday, January 26. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.whartoncenter.com.
Get a taste of the show: