Peter and the Starcatcher
If you're feeling a little prequeled and sequeled out, you're not alone. In particular, you'd be forgiven for having reached your Peter Pan saturation point. But if an exception is to be made, it might as well be for Peter and the Starcatcher, adapted by Rick Elice from the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, now playing at the Lyric Stage in a frequently delightful production directed by Spiro Veloudos.
It's not that the show has anything particularly exciting or memorable to tell us about that enduring boy who won't grow up (the plot can be confusing and might be difficult for youngsters to comprehend), but rather the thrill lies entirely in the physically inventive way the story is told. Cast members act as doors, a yellow dish-glove is a bird, and simple flashlights create a sky full of stars. The stagecraft is simple and yet remarkable, transporting us completely into a world of whimsy and imagination.
There are some shallow comforts that come from a few recognizable origin moments, like how the Boy (an excellent Marc Pierre) came to be called Peter, how a dastardly pirate named Black Stache (Ed Hoopman) lost his hand, and even how, years later, Peter would come to sail through the nursery window of the Darling home. None of these moments feel forced, which is why they work, unlike a handful of cheesy moments in other prequel-type shows like Wicked and Finding Neverland.
Peter and the Starcatcher is an enchanting celebration of the power of storytelling combined with the imaginative qualities of theater. Even in a period piece such as this, modern references to Michael Jackson, Sally Field, and even Kelis' "Milkshake" don't feel out of place in this story. After all, Peter Pan – the story and the boy – have never been entirely bound by just one time or place.
The troupe of actors appear to be having the time of their lives, and it's infectious. By show's end, there isn't an inch of Janie E. Howland's wooden, shiplike set that hasn't been chewed up and spit out. Hoopman's performance as Black Stache is a tour-de-force riot, and Erica Spyres is transcendent as Molly. Will McGarrahan is at his absolute hammiest here, playing several roles, from the proper Mrs. Bumbrake to a minxy mermaid that gives Peter his name. Margaret Ann Brady stands out as well, particularly memorable in the gender-bending role of Alf, whose romance with McGarrahan's Mrs. Bumbrake is one of the play's chief delights.
Frank Meissner Jr.'s lighting is integral to the success of Starcatcher, as are Elisabetta Polito's endlessly detailed costumes, particularly some gaudy mermaids that open Act 2. Speaking of the mermaids, they perform an irrelevant but irresistible old showbiz number, choreographed by Ilyse Robbins, that truly delights.
For all of the virtues of the play, it does take some time to settle into the work. The first half of the first act often feels like being on the outside of an inside joke. Veloudos' staging is occasionally frantic and rambunctious, with lots of bustle and chaotic shouting. But once Starcatcher takes flight, it never looks back, soaring ever higher with its devoted audience in tow.