REVIEW: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER
at Town Hall Arts Center
by Noah Lee Jordan
Literate, eccentric, anachronistic, silly—in short, a celebration of endless verbal and physical shenanigans—PETER AND THE STARCATCHER might be one of the smartest theatrical anomalies to ever reach Broadway. And now it’s made its way to our very own Littleton Town Hall Arts Center. This unprecedented play, backed by a jaunty score, picked up five Tony Awards back in 2012, second only to the musical Once (which netted eight). But Once is a grown-up romance between two musicians based on a film, while Peter and the Starcatcher is a deliriously convoluted prequel to the famous children’s story by J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan, based on Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s novel Peter and the Starcatchers of the same name (note the dropping of the “s” in this version: On stage, there’s only one starcatcher, a girl named Molly).
The cast of Peter and the Starcatcher is a versatile collection of performers who have no trouble morphing from narrator to ensemble to the roles it seems they were born to play. Morgan Emily Patterson is everything you’d want Molly to be: athletic, smart, courageous, and set adrift on the rickety Neverland with her nanny, Mrs. Bumbrake (Scott McLean embodying the essence of femininity without raising his voice an octave), along with a cargo trunk bearing a precious mystery, three lost boys, and a motley crew that becomes even motlier once the ship is overrun by dastardly pirates led by Black Stache and his boon flunky, Smee (a wonderfully hilarious and oddly endearing TJ Hogle).
Suffice it to say that James O’Hagan-Murphy in his hilarious portrayal of Black Stache, has certainly proven that he cannot be pigeon-holed in the theatre community. Having only seen him very serious and somber roles, I was in stitches legitimately “lol’ing” during his scenes.
Tim Howard plays the boy who, once the play shifts from ships to island, becomes Peter Pan, and is delightful. You want to root for him, you want to help him, and in the end, you can’t help but love him, as he follows Molly’s lead, meets up with a sage mermaid (another character hilariously embodied by McLean), and encounters Fighting Prawn, the king of the islanders known as Mollusks who hold dominion over Mister Grin, a ferocious crocodile.
The production is another matter altogether, filled with the sort of unexpected surprises that have an innate appeal to kids (and adults) who don’t have a problem thinking outside the box. With Nick Sugar at the helm, and Donna Kolpan Debreceni on board there was no doubt this show would be a smashing success. But even with those two leading the charge, the rest of the team is glorious in the various roles. From scenic design to costume design. Lighting design and sound design. Each piece works flawlessly together to create a world that audiences can easily get sucked into.
In staging this show, for example, the two ships that set sail from England in the opening moments, the WASP and the Neverland, are represented by actors carrying model boats and later, when the heroine “takes flight,” she’s simply perched on a ladder. In their world, a bird is a rubber yellow glove and words (or lyrics) fill in a variety of visual blanks. It’s a lovely, simple, and enchanting universe…a far cry from the costly riggings and techno-wizardry of other productions, but a sweet reminder of how our imaginations ushered us through our own childhoods—and how we hope they’ll do the same for our little (and not so little) ones.
PETER AND THE STARCATCHER is delighting audiences now through February 4, 2018. Showtimes are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. (and 2 p.m. on 1/27) and Sundays at 2 p.m. (and 6:30 p.m. on 1/21, 12:30 p.m. on 2/4). Tickets are available by calling the Town Hall Arts Center box office, 303-794-2787 ext. 5 (Monday – Friday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 1 Hour prior to Shows) or on-line at townhallartscenter.org/starcatcher.
Town Hall’s production of Peter and the Starcatcher is dedicated to, beloved actor, Daniel Langhoff and his family.
PHOTO CREDIT: Becky Toma