Someday Productions LLC and Pillow Talking are pleased to present the following review of PETER AND THE STARCATCHER at the Connecticut Repertory Theatre
Through July 2nd
The first thing my husband told me when we started seeing each other was, “I’m a child” and he’s continued to say it no less than a thousand times since then. At the time I guess I thought it was cute – or maybe I found some part of his silly, helpless act to be charming – or maybe I just didn’t believe that he meant it. But he wasn’t kidding. A man-boy; that’s what I fell in love with and whom I married. Is it a syndrome for all men? Many men? Maybe not, but a study in the UK found that men mature on average, 11 years later than women – at the age of 43! And some maybe never. (That doesn’t say a lot for women, though, since that means we are still in our 30s before we’ve matured!) But I’ve digressed for long enough…
So what’s my point? Unless some of us have been living under a rock, we all have heard the story of the boy who’ll never grow up. The playful, mischievous imp in green who flies through the air without a care in the world. He is, of course, the character we know as Peter Pan from J.M. Barrie’s most famous work known by many names as Peter Pan, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, or Peter and Wendy. The boy who has no family other than his Lost Boy pals, who also have no one – so they’ve created a bond with one another. But these questions took over one hundred years to answer – how did such a sad state of affairs come to be? How did Peter come to be our beloved, playful Peter Pan?
It was Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson who first wrote the 2006 novel Peter and the Starcatchers, which later was adapted for the stage in 2009 by Rick Elice (with music by Wayne Barker). Their collective creativity brought us the wickedly fantastic Peter and the Starcatcher – the multi-award-winning play (including pulling in several Tonys) that is the ingenious backstory of Pan’s formerly tough and miserable life (who knew?). He’s not a boy who remains a boy because it’s been full of fun times – he’s a boy who was never afforded a childhood, therefore he wants what he hasn’t had. Makes sense, right?
Peter and the Starcatcher follows what will be the final wretched adventure of the nameless “Boy” (later dubbed “Peter”) as he and his fellow orphans are sold and shipped off to a distant island known as Rundoon aboard the Neverland, a ship which is captained by the evil Bill Slank. Thrown in the ship’s dungeon, he and his friends, Ted and Prentiss, don’t see a ray of light or a morsel of edible food until the vibrant young Molly discovers them. Molly is traveling with her nanny, Mrs. Bumbrake, and was placed on the Neverland by her father, Lord Leonard Aster, to ensure their safe passage. Lord Aster on the other hand, is traveling on the faster-moving Wasp on a top-secret mission, guarding a trunk full of Queen Victoria of England’s precious cargo. All is never well, but gets worse when pirates board, including the dastardly Black Stache. Then it’s all about how to get or prevent others from getting some magical, wish-granting “star stuff.” When they finally end up in the jungle and then in “Mollusk” and mermaid territory, well, you’ll just have to see it to appreciate what happens next.
This is a production full of plot twists and turns, lots of absurdity, witty and creative wordplay, and unbelievably crafty set and scene devices. Where rope stands in for walkways, people for doors, yellow rubber gloves for birds, a large sheet for waves, and red lights for crocodile eyes, it isn’t even as if you must use your imagination – you actually see what it is that this playful troupe is creating for its audience. It is captivating. The skillful cast of twelve also doubles and triples in multiple roles and in one instance, it takes nothing more than a bulbous headband to turn a bearded man into a kooky proper English nanny.
Now, I have to state here that this is my second experience with Peter and the Starcatcher – and after my first, I never had any interest in seeing it again. I. Did. Not. Like. It. I found it grimy (if that word can be used to describe a theatrical performance) and hard to follow. I also don’t remember finding it funny. At all…
BUT, seeing it at Connecticut Repertory Theatre truly felt as if I’d never before seen it – I found it to be sidesplittingly, uproariously, laugh-out-loud hysterical from beginning to end. Credit must be given to Director (and soon-to-be-departing Artistic Director) Vincent J. Cardinal for creating a dynamic production with all of the right elements, from utterly brilliant casting, to excellent scenery and costumes, and perfect – and I do mean perfect – pacing.
It is difficult to know where to begin handing out accolades, so I will defer to the order of the cast list, so not as to slight anyone. All were deeply committed to their roles and as a troupe, were seamless. Boy/Peter played by Nate Whipple was excellent as the innocent, brave, but often frustrated youngster who goes wide-eyed and a bit cynical into the world and subtly emerges our hero, Pan. His counterpart in the adventure, Molly, played by a plucky and vibrant Raegan Roberts (who did double duty as choreographer!), is the fearless, always morally-grounded tomboy (with an incredible voice to boot) who is loyal to all whom she loves, even showing love and giving smooches to the Boy who doesn’t know love even exists.
Now, I get to gush, and I mean gush over Michael Doherty as the ridiculously mustachioed, pirate-with-panache, Black Stache. Channeling his inner Bill Hader, Barrymore Award-winning Doherty was knock-down, drag-out one of the funniest stage actors I’ve yet to see, attacking his role with gusto. His comedic timing was flawless and I don’t think I could have handled anyone on this Earth saying “Oh, my God!” ten bazillion times over other than him. This young man may have been chasing “star stuff” in Peter and the Starcatcher as pre-Captain Hook, but his own star is most assuredly going to rise all the way into the stratosphere.
Next is Jonathan Cobrda as Smee (and Ensemble), who like Doherty was channeling an iconic comedian – but in this instance, he had Robin Williams all over him. His drawn-out expressions and physical presence reminded me so much of the late Williams (who is one of my all-time favorite actors/comedians) and it was brilliantly molded into the manifestation of Stache’s lackey, Smee. Cobrda and Doherty also had tremendous chemistry and played amazingly well off one another like Pryor and Wilder or Abbott and Costello.
Lord Leonard Aster played by Mark Blashford was the model Englishman and embodied the role. There was a believable affection between his character and daughter Molly. Ryan Shea was fabulous as the ever-ravenous Ted (and Ensemble). We’ve seen Shea in other CRT productions and he’s a terrific talent. Aaron Bantum as Prentiss (and Ensemble) was great as the articulate, wannabe leader of the Boy-Ted-Prentiss triumvirate, whose frustration is more than obvious when he’s so often shown up by the fierce Molly.
Jason Bohon is a tremendously talented chameleon, morphing from the hysterical Mrs. Bumbrake to the “Teacher” – a long-tailed mermaid who has a few things about which to instruct our Boy. Her comical relationship with the very gassy Alf (and Ensemble), played by an entertaining Greg Webster (who also did fight choreography) is the secondary and very amusing love-story to Molly and Peter’s.
Tony Award-nominated and UCONN alum Forrest McClendon is utterly brilliant as Slank and King Prawn (and Ensemble), the king of the Mollusk Islanders who appears in Act 2. He brings life and verve to the colorful stage characters, commanding the stage in every scene. (Can’t wait to see him in whatever project is next on his agenda!)
Colby Lewis is a terrific Captain Scott (and Ensemble), the captain of the Wasp who was an old school chum of Aster’s. And last but not least, Kalob Martinez as Clam (and Ensemble) as well as Sanchez, the pirate who seems to have an identity crisis, or whose name no one can seem to get right (he also is a great puppet master whom we’ve seen in his own original work at UCONN’s Puppet Arts Festival).
In addition to the great cast, many kudos to the rest of the crew: NDavid Williams as musical director; Roberts as choreographer; Jose C. Simbulan as conductor/pianist; Tim Brown as scenic designer; Michael Vincent Skinner as sound designer; Michael Chybowski as lighting designer; Christina Lorraine Bullard as costume designer; John W. Parmalee as technical director; Webster as fight choreographer; and Victoria Whooper as stage manager. Casting was by Pat McCorkle, McCorkle Casting Ltd. And shout-outs to the band, Simbulan on piano and Tyler Campbell on percussion.
Peter and the Starcatcher is undoubtedly a few hours of zany, lighthearted fun. There are important themes, however, such as being careful what you wish for, growing up (or choosing not to), believing in yourself, bravery, leadership, loyalty, and love. CRT nailed another great show as the second in their Nutmeg Summer Series! Catch is before it sails away!
Oh, my God…Oh, my God; Oh, my God…Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s (CRT) production of Peter and the Starcatcher is knock-down, drag-out hysterical. I had seen Starcatcher Off-Broadway and I did not enjoy it. It was dark and confusing. So I had great trepidation when we ventured to UCONN to see CRT’s production. Its past productions of Spamalot and How to Succeed… were wonderful and I did not want to see CRT mess up its record.
Oh, my God, little did I realize that I had nothing to worry about. Director Vincent J. Cardinal did a brilliant job of delving into the heart of the play and staging it in such a way that it was perfectly understandable. Moreover, it was light, witty and filled with gut-wrenching humor. I’ve said in other reviews that I am far from a guffaw or belly-laugh man, but my rib cage was positively sore by the end of the show from all of the side-splitting antics.
The story is a prequel to the iconic Peter Pan tale. In fact, Starcatcher answers all of the important questions that were left unresolved in Peter Pan including: the origin of Peter Pan; how did Captain Hook come to be; and the history of Neverland. The play, based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, was adapted for the stage by Rick Elice.
The entire cast is superb. Veteran Broadway actor and Tony Nominee, Forrest McClendon, gives masterful performances as Slank and King Prawn, two characters who are as different as night and day. Oh, my God, (you’ll understand when you see it) Michael Doherty positively shines as the villainous Black Stache. While he channels a bit of Johnny Depp’s performance as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Carribbean, it is more of a turbo-charged Johnny Depp, shuffling, prancing and even prat falling all around the stage. His comedic timing is impeccable and he really knows how to play an audience for extra laughs. I was guffawing and belly laughing every time he was on the boards and it was, in large part, thanks to him that I had to use Bengay for my aching ribs that night. Jonathan Cobrda as Smee, loyal minion to Stache, made the perfect comedic foil to Michael’s portrayal. Indeed, together they had great chemistry and made a hilarious comedy duo. Nate Whipple as the soon-to-be perennial lost boy, Peter Pan, brought just the right mix of charm, vulnerability and naiveté to the role. Two notable scene stealers were Jason Bohon as Mrs. Bumbrake (loved his ‘do) and Kalob Martinez as Clam (Sanchez) whom we loved in CRT’s MFA Puppet Arts Festival. Kudos also must be given to Mark Blashford as the stiff and proper Lord Leonard Astor, Greg Webster as Alf, Colby Lewis as Captain Scott, Aaron Bantum as Prentis, and Ryan Shea as Ted.
Amid all of this great testosterone is a real gem. I am referring, of course, to the only woman in the cast, Raegan Roberts. Not only was her acting and singing spot on as Molly Astor, but she did double duty as the choreographer as well. Finally, props must be given to Music Director NDavid Williams, Conductor/Pianist Jose C. Simbulan, and Tyler Campbell Percussion.
I feel satisfied in now knowing and understanding the full history of Peter Pan. CRT’s Starcatcher is great fun for the entire family. It is one of those plays that must be experienced. Oh, my God, you just have to see it!