‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ Makes Us Believe In Magic
Tonight the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center resonated with delighted laughter during the hilariously whimsical and ever creative prequel to Peter Pan, Peter and the Starcatcher.
The play tells the origins story of how a nameless orphan boy, beaten down by the adults in his life, eventually becomes Peter Pan after he meets a heroic young girl named Molly who is on a magical quest that will alter the course of their lives forever.
Throughout their swashbuckling adventures we discover how Neverland was born, the significance of Mermaid Lagoon, how the infamous crocodile became a leviathan, and even how a bawdy pirate known as Black Stache earned the moniker Captain Hook.
What makes this show so much fun is that every actor on stage has a grand time bringing the story to life. Aisling Halpin is earnest and effervescent as Molly, and her youthful exuberance is what draws the orphans to her and makes the audience believe in magic.
Bryan Welnicki plays his part to perfection as the boy who becomes Peter. He delivers a sympathetic character who is initially crusty around the edges but who only wants to experience the type of childhood everyone deserves. Welnicki deftly handles the character's gradual transformation, ultimately breaking the audience's heart while somehow inspiring them to stand up and cheer as he comes into his own.
No Peter Pan story is complete without a nanny, and Tim Hackney revels in his role as Mrs. Bumbrake, a character that could easily have been the love child of Julia Child and Dame Edna. Hackney has so much fun with this character that I couldn't help but wonder how many moments he went off script to keep the audience and his fellow actors entertained.
Speaking of going off script, Joe Beuerlein stole the show as Black Stache. With impeccable comic timing, he creates a pirate that we can't help but adore. He's lewd, over the top, and unabashedly flirtatious. But most of all, Beuerlein will stop at nothing for a laugh and dazzles us in every scene he's in. In many ways, I couldn't help but think that he just may one day be a worthy successor to the comic crown actors like Harvey Korman and Robin Williams wore before him.
I can't end this review, however, without praising the brilliant set designs of Donyale Werle and costumes of Paloma Young. Neither the sets nor the costumes were overly done, but instead they are marvelous in their simplicity. They make true theatrical magic and capture the childlike wonder of the world of Peter Pan in ingenious ways, turning ordinary things like flags into teeth and kitchen steamers into seashells.
All in all, Peter and the Starcatcher is first rate entertainment from the imagination of Rick Elice, based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. This show reminds you that every child can become anything he wants to be, and that ultimately, real magic is found in the power of friendship.