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PlayMakers Rep’s Peter and the Starcatcher Is a Whimsical, Hilarious Musical Prequel to Peter Pan

PlayMakers Repertory Company will present Peter and the Starcatcher on Nov. 18-22 and 24, 25, 27-29 and Dec. 1-6 and 10-12 in the Paul Green Theatre at UNC-Chapel Hill

PlayMakers Repertory Company will present Peter and the Starcatcher on Nov. 18-22 and 24, 25, 27-29 and Dec. 1-6 and 10-12 in the Paul Green Theatre at UNC-Chapel Hill

For its 2015 holiday show, PlayMakers Repertory Company will present Peter and the Starcatcher, a swashbuckling, knee-slapping prequel to the beloved 1904 stage play Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up by Scottish novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie (1860-1937). The show will preview on Nov. 18-21, officially open on Nov. 21, and then run Nov. 22, 24, 25, and 27-29 and Dec. 1-6 and 10-12 in the Paul Green Theatre in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Dramatic Art.

Barrie introduced Peter Pan, that incorrigible scamp, friend to fairies and Neverland’s Native American tribe, and scourge of pirates everywhere, in chapters 13–18 of his 1902 novel The Little White Bird, then burnished the boy’s reputation as a mischief maker in Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. Peter’s pranks are legendary, but his origins remained murky for 102 years, until syndicated newspaper humor columnist and author Dave Barry and suspense novelist Ridley Pearson teamed up in 2006 to imagine them in their popular young-adult novel Peter and the Starcatchers.

Tony Award® nominee Rick Elice (The Addams Family, Jersey Boys) transformed Barry and Pearson’s best-selling novel into wonderfully witty and whimsical prequel to Barrie’s books. After premiering in 2009 at the La Jolla Playhouse in California, Peter and the Starcatcher made its Off-Broadway debut on March 9, 2011 at the New York Theatre Workshop, where it ran through April 24, 2011 and won a 2011 Village Voice OBIE Award for co-directors Roger Rees and Alex Timbers and the 2012 Audience Choice Award for Favorite New Play, among other honors.

In his 2012 review, Ben Brantley of The New York Times made Peter and the Starcatcher an NYT Critics’ Pick and called the show “the most exhilarating example of locomotive storytelling on Broadway since the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby visited three decades ago ….” In her article on the Top Five Broadway Shows of 2012, Beth Stevens characterized Peter and the Starcatcher as “Sweet enough for kids, sophisticated enough for grown-ups, this play with music was both a valentine to the innocence of childhood and the magic of stagecraft.”

This glorious, brilliantly conceived, and altogether delightful theatrical romp through the untold chapters of Peter Pan’s early life not only features a hilarious book and lively lyrics by Rick Elice, but it also boasts an effervescent score by Wayne Barker (Dame Edna: Back with a Vengeance). Peter and the Starcatcher made its Broadway debut on April 15, 2012 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, where it played 319 performances before closing on Jan. 20, 2013. Nominated for the 2012 Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Original Score Written for the Theatre, as well as Best Direction of a Play, Peter and the Starcatcher won five Tonys — for Best Scenic, Lighting, Costume, and Sound Design of a Play and Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (Christian Borle as Peter Pan’s nemesis, the infamous pirate chieftain Black Stache).

Evan Johnson and Arielle Yoder star as Peter and Molly Aster (photo by Jon Gardiner)

Evan Johnson and Arielle Yoder star as Peter and Molly Aster (photo by Jon Gardiner)

“I first heard about [Peter and the Starcatcher] when it was about to open in New York,” recalls PRC guest director Brendon Fox. “I knew Roger Rees — the original co-director of that production — from my time working at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego.”

Fox, who previously directed Opus (2009) and Angels in America (2011) for PlayMakers Rep, adds, “I’ve never worked on a production of the play before. [But] I’ve had many friends and colleagues who saw the show in New York and elsewhere, and loved it. As much as I wanted to catch a production in the past, I’m very glad now that I haven’t seen it before. It allows me to come to it with fresh eyes.”

Brendon Fox says, “I’ve fallen in love with so many things about Peter and the Starcatcher. I believe that the aspect of the play I love most is also what made me want to direct it. The play manages to capture a sincere sense of wonder and imagination. It tells the story of the protagonists Peter and Molly (the ‘Starcatcher’ of the title) using music, puppets, actors playing multiple characters, and set transformations. While doing this, it holds onto the feeling kids have when they play ‘make believe’ with a minimum of things at their disposal. And it somehow manages to do this without being cute or sentimental….

“Without giving too much away, the plot of Starcatcher can be considered a fun, quirky ‘prequel’ to the story of Peter Pan that many people know,” Fox explains. “In our play, we follow the adventures of the unnamed orphan Boy (Evan Johnson) and Starcatcher-in-Training Molly Aster (Arielle Yoder) in the late 19th century as they strive to keep the magical ‘starstuff’ away from pirates Bill Slank (John Allore) and Black Stache (Mitchell Jarvis). Imagine a mashup of Treasure Island, Harry Potter, and Monty Python, involving magic, friendship, first love, and flying cats. Something for everyone.”

Besides the actors and actress named above, the PlayMakers Repertory Company cast for this show includes (in alphabetical order): Daniel Bailin as Prentiss, Myles Bullock as Grempkin/Fighting Prawn, Jeffrey Blair Cornell as Alf, Benjamin Curns as Mrs. Bumbrake/Teacher, Jorge Donoso as Ted, Ray Dooley as Lord Aster, William Hughes as Sanchez/Mack, Schuyler Scott Mastain as Captain Scott, and Brian Owen as Smee.

Starcatcher presents a number of challenges, which are also incredible opportunities for the cast and design team,” claims director Brendon Fox. “The play has a Shakespearean scope, with a large cast of characters, many different locations, and mysterious moments of magic that are left up to each production to solve.”

He adds, “The cast has to be incredibly versatile to transform into so many characters, often in front of the audience. The design team and I have spent six months going over every moment and location in the play, and have storyboarded (like a film shoot) how we are going to evoke every location and approach events ranging from a storm onstage to a dense jungle.

“The writing has encouraged us from the beginning to be specific and economical with our design elements — what I call the ‘1 inch = 600 miles’ approach,” Fox says. “This means that like kids playing with found objects to create a ship or island, we challenged ourselves to evoke or suggest a location or character, and encourage the audience to fill in the blanks. That way we’re not trying to be too literal or spell things out for those watching the play. There are ways to suggest an ocean through clever props and lighting without overwhelming the cast or audience.”

Mitchell Jarvis and Arielle Yoder star as Black Stache and Molly Aster (photo by Jon Gardiner)

Mitchell Jarvis and Arielle Yoder star as Black Stache and Molly Aster (photo by Jon Gardiner)

In addition to director Brendon Fox, the PlayMakers Repertory Company production team for Peter and the Starcatcher includes production manager Michael Rolleri, assistant director Estefania Fadul, choreographer Casey Sams, scenic designer McKay Coble, lighting designer Xavier Pierce, costume designer Holly Poe Durbin, assistant to the costume designer Jennifer Guadagno, sound designer Eric Collins, dramaturg Gregory Kable, vocal coach John Patrick, movement consultant Maria Enriquez, stage manager Charles K. Bayang, assistant stage manager Hannah-Jean Farris. Musicians Mark Lewis (piano/synthesizer) and Ana Mitchell (percussion) will do double duty, making sound effects as Foley artists.

PRC guest director Brendon Fox says, “The set is meant to suggest a cross between a favorite tree house and jungle gym. It has lots of levels, ramps, and things to climb on. Because we want the audience ideally to view the show through the eyes of a pre-teen open for adventure, the set reflects that idea of playing, climbing and exploring. McKay Coble has done an incredible job creating a versatile, surprising, and exciting playground for the actors and me.”

He adds, “[Peter and the Starcatcher is] going to be spectacular! That’s all I can say at the moment, because we’re just beginning our tech process. Xavier Pierce and I have discussed many wonderful opportunities for the lighting to not only help us change our location on a dime, but also the mood….

“I haven’t seen [all the costumes] together onstage yet (during the tech process, we’ll put all of the design elements into the mix),” Fox says, “but Holly Poe Durbin is creating an amazing palette of looks for the cast. The idea we’re exploring is that the entire cast is a 19th century ensemble of actors with a similar ‘look’ to them; and as each actor transforms, they take on beautiful, specific pieces (from eye patches to feathers) that evoke each of their different characters.”

Director Brendon Fox adds, “[PlayMakers Rep patrons] don’t need to know anything about the Peter Pan story or myth to enjoy our show. And if audiences do know any of the versions of the story when they walk into PlayMakers, this play will take them on a totally different journey. It has lots of humor, tons of heart, and a little magic for all ages.”

Benjamin Curns (left) and Arielle Yoder star as Mrs. Bumbrake and Molly Aster (photo by Jon Gardiner)

Benjamin Curns (left) and Arielle Yoder star as Mrs. Bumbrake and Molly Aster (photo by Jon Gardiner)

SECOND OPINION: Nov. 18th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Zack Smith:

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents PETER AND THE STARCATCHER at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18-20 Previews; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21 Opening Night; 2 p.m. Nov. 22; 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,, or

GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919-962-PLAY (7529),, or



PRESENTER:,,,, and

PRC BLOG (Page to Stage):



NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices will be available at all performances.

NOTE 2: There will be an opening-night gala performance, followed by refreshments, on Saturday, Nov. 21st.

NOTE 3: UNC’s General Alumni Association will host a preshow reception and conversation with the PlayMakers Rep artistic staff, starting at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 22nd, and followed by a performance of the play. The cost per person (including the play ticket) will be $35 for GAA members, $50 for other adults, and $30 for children aged 11-18. For details, click here.

NOTE 4: 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 5: 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 6: There will be an Open Captioning Performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 28th (for more information, click

NOTE 7: 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): (official website) and (Wikipedia).

The Novel: (Google Books).

Dave Barry (co-author): (official website) and (Wikipedia).

Ridley Pearson (co-author): (official website) and (Wikipedia).

Peter and the Starcatcher (2009 La Jolla Playhouse, 2011 Off-Broadway, and 2012 Broadway play with music): (official website), (Music Theatre International), (Internet Off-Broadway Database), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

The Script: (Scribd).

Study Guide: (Utah Shakespeare Festival).

Rick Elice (book): (Internet Off-Broadway Database), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).

Wayne Barker (music): (Internet Off-Broadway Database) and (Internet Broadway Database).

Brendon Fox (PRC guest director): (official website) and (PRC bio).


Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

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