PETER AND THE STARCATCHER
adapted by Rick Elice from a novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Discover the Neverland you never knew in this regional premiere, straight from Broadway and five Tony Awards. It is a wildly theatrical, hilarious, and imaginative story of how an orphan came to be Peter Pan, the captain got his hook, and a young girl inspired everyone to believe. You won't want to miss this epic tale of one of the world's most enduring and beloved characters.
Seanie is a big-time Peter Pan fan, and he enjoyed the Barry/Pearson book when it came out several years back. When I saw that the book had been adapted into a musical, and that we would be passing through Cedar City at just the right time to catch a performance – well, we had to see it.
So the basic gist of the story is that once upon a time, an orphan boy so unloved that he hasn’t even got a name is sold into service aboard a ship. Life has been cruel to Boy, and as a result he trusts no one and especially hates grown-ups. On board the ship, he meets Molly, a peppery young lady with a strange, glowing amulet around her neck. She tells Peter her necklace contains starstuff, a magical substance that falls from the stars, and that her father is on a mission to destroy a chest of starstuff for the Queen. However, the chest accidentally ended up on Molly’s ship, the Neverland, instead of her father’s ship, the Wasp. She, Boy and some of his fellow orphans must protect the starstuff from the crew and from the pirate Black Stache, a notorious villain intent on claiming the treasured starstuff for himself.
Since I’ve read the book, I did have certain expectations for how the characters would act. Some changes were naturally made when adapting the story to the stage. Boy/Peter is older than his counterpart in the novel, as is Molly. But the core personality remains the same. On the other hand, the pirate Black Stache…well, good grief, but he certainly is a good deal swishier than I expected. The Black Stache of the novel is a cruel, evil man with very little sense of humor (at least, that’s how I remember him). The musical’s flamboyant Stache is all flash and high camp, with a penchant for malapropisms, puns and anachronistic jokes. Although he claims he desires treasure, what Stache is really after is a hero to oppose him so that he can be the ultimate villain. He’s a treat to look at, too, with his outlandishly outsized moustache, tight striped pants and elaborate velvet coat. With his dimwitted companion Smee, Black Stache makes a hilarious and bizarre antagonist to Boy and Molly.
The first act of the play is a story-driven adventure, with Molly and her new friends protecting the starstuff on the high seas. Then the two ships meet in combat and the Neverland is destroyed; the starstuff leaks into the water and all hell breaks loose. The second act begins not with a direct continuation of the story, but a bizarre interlude in which mermaids sing about their transformation from fish into half-women thanks to the magic of the starstuff. The action henceforth takes place on the island Neverland, as an Indian tribe (the Mollusks) with names off the menu of an Italian café take on first Molly and Peter and then the pirates. Yet for all the hijinks and hilarity, the musical ends on a rather sad, poignant note as Peter realizes that he will not grow older and therefore must remain behind on the island while Molly and her father return to England.
The sets are often quite minimal. In one scene, a length of rope suggests a ship. Many cast members play double or triple roles. But it’s a fantastic play – a little odd and rather strange – but so much fun to watch. I’m so glad we made the time to see it as we passed through Cedar City.
Photos taken by Karl Hugh.