Bay Area Theater Review: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (TheatreWorks in Palo Alto)

by Jim Allen on December 11, 2014

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area

Post image for Bay Area Theater Review: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (TheatreWorks in Palo Alto)

NOT ONLY WILL YOU FLOAT OUT OF THE THEATER, YOU MAY EVEN FLY

Adrienne Walters as Molly and Tim Homsley as Peter in the TheatreWorks production of PETER AND THE STARCATCHER playing December 3, 2014 - January 3, 2015 at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. Photo by Keven Berne.Have you ever wondered how the original “lost boy” became Peter Pan and what his life was like before flying out the Darling’s nursery window with Wendy, Michael and John in tow?

Adapted by Rick Elice, with musical interludes by Wayne Barker, and based on Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s 2004 children’s novel, this play with music tells the story of a nameless, angst-ridden 13-year-old orphan, and the shipboard adventure during which he becomes Peter Pan. Along the way he meets all manner of cut-throats and quirky characters, falls in love with young Molly Aster, and meets Black Stache, the two-handed pirate who will become his hook-wearing nemesis. Peter and the Starcatcher is overflowing with orphans, pirates, sailors, mermaids and malapropisms, all wrapped-up in a sparkling package of wit, whimsy and swashbuckling inventiveness. The TheatreWorks production will send you out of the theater in a considerably better mood than when you came in.

Michael Gene Sullivan, Ron Campbell, Darren Bridgett, Christopher Reber, Adrienne Walters, Will Springhorn Jr., Kenny Toll, Patrick Kelly Jones, Tim Homsley, and Jeremy Kahn in the TheatreWorks production of PETER AND THE STARCATCHER playing December 3, 2014 - January 3, 2015 at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. Photo by Keven Berne.

Spunky know-it-all and apprentice starcatcher Molly is central to the story. She finds herself and her very proper British nanny, Mrs. Bumbrake, aboard the ship Neverland, protecting a trunk of a magical substance called starstuff (fairy dust, perhaps?) in the name of Queen Victoria. She also takes the “Boy” and his two orphan friends under her wing. They eventually team-up and—consistently outsmarting their nemeses—survive a capsized ship, an escape from a crocodile cage, and a tribe of Brit-hating “Mollusks.”

Peter (Tim Homsley) and Black Stache (Patrick Kelly Jones) have a heart to heart in the TheatreWorks production of PETER AND THE STARCATCHER playing December 3, 2014 - January 3, 2015 at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. Photo by Keven Berne.Directed with a light and clever hand by Robert Kelley, the large and impressive ensemble is given plenty of latitude to stretch its collective wings in a clever, yet complex, narrative that draws us in and keeps us engaged, racing along at lightning speed. Peter and the Starcatcher reunites TheatreWorks regulars Darren Bridgett, Ron Campbell, and Michael Gene Sullivan who co-starred in last spring’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. Tim Homsley is a perfectly morose “Boy” as the story begins, appropriately morphing into Peter Pan by story’s end. Adrienne Walters is sweet and spunky as the ever-resourceful Molly. Campbell is wonderfully funny as both Mrs. Bumrake and a cross-dressing mermaid. The stand-out of the evening is marvelous Patrick Kelly Jones as Black Stache, blatantly stealing every moment he’s onstage and leaving the audience breathless with laughter when he loses a certain appendage.

Kenny Toll, Christopher Reber, Patrick Kelly Jones, Suzanne Grodner, and Michael Gene Sullivan perform the mermaid dance in the TheatreWorks production of PETER AND THE STARCATCHER playing December 3, 2014 - January 3, 2015 at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. Photo by Keven Berne.

Joe Ragey’s clever and evocative set extends into the audience and creates the feel of an English music hall. B. Modern’s costumes reflect late 19th-century England and serve-up some of the funniest mermaid drag ever seen. William Liberatore’s musical direction is spot-on, as is Dottie Lester White’s choreography. Pamila Z. Gray’s exceptionally elaborate lights and Brendan Aanes’ distinctive sound add to the magical, otherworldly feel of the production.

Slank (Will Springhorn Jr.) and Black Stache (Patrick Kelly Jones) duel in the TheatreWorks production of PETER AND THE STARCATCHER playing December 3, 2014 - January 3, 2015 at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. Photo by Keven Berne.

In a theatrical era awash with flying nannies, Spidermen, gravity-defying witches, and the occasional falling chandelier, this is a refreshing return to the days when Broadway shows were less rock concert-styled events and more communal gatherings, the ones which were often an opportunity for patrons to use their collective imagination, and participate mentally and emotionally in the onstage proceedings. Much of Starcatcher‘s simple stagecraft and storytelling, used here to great effect, would have no doubt been appropriate over a century ago.

Smee (Suzanne Grodner) and Black Stache (Patrick Kelly Jones) are astonished in the TheatreWorks production of PETER AND THE STARCATCHER playing December 3, 2014 - January 3, 2015 at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. Photo by Keven Berne.

For all of its raucous humor and vaudevillian fun, the heart of this fable is about the loss of innocence, the importance of self-sacrifice, and the joy of rising above one’s past in order to fly.

Jeremy Kahn, Tim Homsley, and Cyril Jamal Cooper are cornered while Michael Gene Sullivan as Fighting Prawn explains their predicament in the TheatreWorks production of PETER AND THE STARCATCHER playing December 3, 2014 - January 3, 2015 at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. Photo by Keven Berne.

photos by Kevin Berne

Slank (Will Springhorn Jr.) catches Mrs. Bumbrake (Ron Campbell) in the TheatreWorks production of PETER AND THE STARCATCHER playing December 3, 2014 - January 3, 2015 at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. Photo by Keven Berne.Peter and the Starcatcher
TheatreWorks
Lucie Stern Theatre
1305 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto
scheduled to end on January 3, 2015
for tickets, call 650.463.1960
or visit www.TheatreWorks.org

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ironbob December 22, 2014 at 6:41 pm

This review is spot on and to add, there are scenes that were absolutely hilarious. This is how community theater should be and I don’t remember an ensemble cast that worked so well together as this one.

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