When I was eight years old, my Gram took me to my first ever theater experience: Peter Pan the musical, starring Cathy Rigby. It ignited my love of theater, especially musical theater, and the story of Peter Pan would become a favorite of mine.
This being the third production of Rick Elice’s Peter and the Starcatcher that I’ve seen (and the first regional production), I was looking forward to a new interpretation. Thankfully, under Brendon Fox’s direction, PlayMakers Repertory Company succeeds in presenting a new, fresh take on the story of how the Boy Wouldn’t Never Grow Up came to be.
Based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Mr. Elice’s script covers a lot of ground and is a little dense and lengthy in certain parts, a problem I also found with the other two productions that I’ve seen. To keep it simple: it includes pirates, secret treasures, cross-dressing, a flying cat, a giant crocodile, a de-handing, and one awfully big adventure.
Evan Johnson’s Peter starts out quiet and jaded, slowly blossoming into the great Pan with whom we’re familiar. His to-be archrival, Black Stache, is played by Mitchell Jarvis. Jarvis brings a much different energy to our still two-handed villain than I was expecting; overly effeminate with plenty of wild abandon and sass, he never quite menaced enough for me to buy him as the man who would become Captain Hook.
Arielle Yoder lovingly embodies Molly, our Starcatcher. She brings a sweetness and strength that plays well off Peter’s occasionally abrasive attitude.
But, as is sometimes the case, the standout performances in the cast lie in the supporting characters. Benjamin Curns, who plays Molly’s nanny, Mrs. Bumbrake, as well as the great mermaid Teacher, wins every scene he’s in, mining every moment to the max (alliteration is Ms. Bumbrake’s forte). His Teacher is sultry and exciting and sends chills when she gives our Peter his surname of Pan.
Black Stache’s right-hand man, of course, is Smee. Played by Brian Owen, he’s the most comedic straight man I’ve seen in a long time. He possesses stability in his comedy. He’s laugh-out-loud funny, and doesn’t even seem to be trying; but I know he’s working hard. It’s an enviable quality, appearing effortlessly hilarious. Without giving too much away, he steals the scene out from under Black Stache’s unharnessed antics simply by holding his hand.
Holly Poe Durbin has created some beautiful and flexible costumes, incorporating some wonderful, bright visual elements. They stand beautifully against McKay Coble’s multilevel set, with a giant rotating structure in the middle, and Xavier Pierce’s lush lighting.
The story is engaging and exciting, shedding new light on a familiar story. PlayMakers Repertory Company’s winning production deserves to be seen, and serves as a strong alternative offering during the holiday season.
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 23rd Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Jackson Cooper: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=7708; Nov. 23rd Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel (student newspaper) review by Kyley Underhill (who awarded the show 4 stars): http://www.dailytarheel.com/blog/canvas/2015/11/peter-and-the-starcatchers; Nov. 23rd Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article46050055.html; Nov. 19th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/peter-and-the-starcatcher-peter-pan-prequel-presents-neverland-before/article_70624c0c-8e46-11e5-bf29-6f84bef1b1b0.html (Note: You must subscribe to read this article); and Nov. 18th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Zack Smith: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/peter-and-the-starcatcher/Event?oid=4766081. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Nov. 18th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2015/11/playmakers-reps-peter-and-the-starcatcher-is-a-whimsical-hilarious-musical-prequel-to-peter-pan/.)
PlayMakers Repertory Company presents PETER AND THE STARCATCHER at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 24, 25, and 27; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28; 2 p.m. Nov. 29; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1-5; 2 p.m. Dec. 6; and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10-12 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 120 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.
TICKETS: $15 and up ($10 UNC students and $12 other college students), with discounts for UNC faculty and staff and U.S. military personnel, except $15 (general admission) Tuesday Community Night performances.
BOX OFFICE: 919-962-PLAY, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/single.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919-962-PLAY (7529), email@example.com, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/groupsales.
UNC NEWS RELEASES: http://uncnews.unc.edu/2015/11/05/playmakers-presents-peter-and-the-starcatcher-for-the-holidays/ and http://uncnews.unc.edu/2015/03/19/peter-and-the-starcatcher-joins-playmakers-2015-2016-season/.
PRESENTER: http://www.playmakersrep.org/, https://www.facebook.com/playmakersrep, https://twitter.com/playmakersrep, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayMakers_Repertory_Company, and http://www.youtube.com/user/PlayMakersRep.
PRC BLOG (Page to Stage): http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices will be available at all performances.
NOTE 2: There will be an All-Access Performance, with sign-language interpretation and audio description by Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 24th.
NOTE 3: There will be FREE post-show discussions with members of the creative team following the show’s 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 25th, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29th, performances.
NOTE 4: There will be an Open Captioning Performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 28th (for more information, click http://playmakersrep.org/outreach/allaccess/opencaption).
NOTE 5: The Lucy Daniels Foundation and the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society will sponsor FREE post-show “Mindplay” discussion — led by Theresa Anna Yuschok, MD of the Duke University School of Medicine — after the 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6th, performance.
Peter and the Starcatchers (2004 novel): http://books.disney.com/book/peter-and-the-starcatchers/ (official website) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_and_the_Starcatchers (Wikipedia).
The Novel: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Dave Barry (co-author): http://www.davebarry.com/ (official website) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Barry (Wikipedia).
Ridley Pearson (co-author): http://ridleypearson.com/ (official website) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ridley_Pearson (Wikipedia).
Peter and the Starcatcher (2009 La Jolla Playhouse, 2011 Off-Broadway, and 2012 Broadway play with music): http://peterandthestarcatcher.com/ (official website), http://www.mtishows.com/show_detail.asp?showid=000419 (Music Theatre International), http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=491596 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_and_the_Starcatcher_%28play%29 (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://www.scribd.com/doc/247998720/Peter-and-the-Starcatcher-Rick-Elice (Scribd).
Study Guide: http://www.bard.org/study-guides/peter-and-the-starcatcher-study-guide (Utah Shakespeare Festival).
Rick Elice (book): http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=394783 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5014092/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Elice (Wikipedia).
Wayne Barker (music): http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database) and http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=391752 (Internet Broadway Database).
Brendon Fox (PRC guest director): http://www.foxdirector.com/ (official website) and http://www.playmakersrep.org/performances/embed_artist.aspx?id=d27055fa-80a0-4446-8251-932811aa25f0 (PRC bio).
Jesse R. Gephart is a Raleigh, NC-based actor, director, and reviewer. A Gainesville, FL native, he earned a degree in Theatre Performance in 2005 from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. On Feb. 20-March 1, 2015, he directed and starred in Mortall Coile Theatre Company’s presentation of British playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell’s first play, The Pride. He directed Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch on May 1-14. On Oct. 15-Nov. 1, Gephart starred as Frank ‘N’ Furter in the City Stage Co.’s rollicking rendition of The Rocky Horror Show. On Dec. 11-13 and 18-20, he will reprise his critically acclaimed performance as David/Crumpet in Theatre in the Park’s presentation of The SantaLand Diaries. To read more of Jesse Gephart’s reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/jesse-r-gephart/.)