Monday, July 27, 2015

Creative, delightful “Peter and the Starcatcher” @ The Shaw

“Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage:  it can be delightful.”  (G. B. Shaw)

Mention J. M. Barrie, and the immediate thought is Peter Pan.  Peter Pan, the tale of a boy who refused to grow up, has become a cottage industry.   Dolls, movies, a musical play, coloring books, cartoons, Halloween costumes, a non-musical play, and books quickly come to mind. 

Did you know that there has even been a prequel written about Peter and the boys?  Yes, a subsidiary of Disney, published, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a 2004 book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, which provides a back story, an explanation of what happened before the J. M. Barrie popular tale, “Peter Pan.”

A play with music, with book by Rick Elice and music by Wayne Barker, was adapted from “Peter and the Starcatcher.” It debuted in 2009 at La Jolla Playhouse.  It was restaged in 2011 for an Off-Broadway production, and opened on-Broadway in 2012.   It is now on stage at the Royal George Theatre of the Shaw Festival in a delightful production directed by Jackie Maxwell. 

Act 1 takes place at sea.  We sail on ships which evolve before our eyes.  Act Two finds us on an island.  

We find out how an orphan called Boy evolves into a lad named Peter.  The tale reveals how he and two friends meet Molly, confront a band of pirates led by Black “Stache,” and how a crocodile got a taste for the pirate leader.  We share with the cast how Peter protects a trunk of “star stuff,” and the mischievous Tinker Belle comes to be.   The action ends as Molly and her father return to the real world, while Peter and the Lost Boys remain on the isle of Neverland, with a promise to visit Molly sometime in the future.  

For those in the know, we realize that Peter, will use the “star stuff” to fly to a home in England, where Molly (Darling) now lives with her children Wendy, John and Michael.  And, of course, Peter will take the trio on a flight to Never Neverland where Wendy will become, at least for a short time, the “mother” of the lost boys and have an adventure which includes a croc with a taste for Captain Hook, a band of pirates, some Indians, and, well….you get the idea!

The farce is performed with imaginative staging that enhances the fantasy nature of the work.  It is, as the program says, “deliriously foolish.”  The production elements, as evidenced by the howling and giggles emitted from both adults and children alike, is meant for everyone.  Only a true grouch wouldn’t be entertained.

Filled with ropes which become waves of water, doorways, devices for levitation and Peter’s near drowning and flight, the simple effects work well.  Hanging sheets of filmy gauze create sails, but are also used as devices for mermaids to hang from and swim their way through the sea.

Each member of the cast is character correct.  Kate Besworth, is the fearless tomboy, Molly, with enough lady-like characteristics, to see her as a future proper mother.  Charlie Gallant delights as Peter, the orphan boy who doesn’t want to grown up, but obviously needs a mother so he can become a true “leader.”

Andrew Broderick (Ted) and James Daly (Prentiss) take on the roles of Peter’s friends with wonderful boyish hellion qualities. 

Jonathan Tan morphs into Smee, Black Stache’s bumbling henchman, with a nice farcical quality.  Martin Happer doesn’t scare the little ones as the “fiercesome” Black Stache.  Instead, he takes on a rather cherubic bad guy veneer.  

Capsule judgement:  “Peter and the Starcatcher” is a delightful fantasy of imagination and  growing up that gets a farcical, creative and wonderfully enjoyable production under the direction of Jackie Maxwell and scenic design by Judith Bowden.  It’s  a must see for anyone, child or adult, who can turn themselves over to experiencing the wonderment of imagination. 

What: “Peter and the Starcatcher”
Where:  Shaw Festival, Royal George Theatre
When:  April 8 to November 1, 2015
For tickets or information:   1-800-5111-Shaw or