BWW Review: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER at Onstage In Bedford
You don't have to be a die-hard fan of PETER PAN to enjoy PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, a play (with lots of music) that tells the backstory of the famous boy who never grew up. However, you do need bring a sense of childlike wonder and a make-believe spirit to fully appreciate this creative romp that turns an empty set into an adventure on a pirate ship, in an enchanted mermaid grotto, on a tropical island and anywhere else that can be imagined.
The story follows Lord Leonard Aster (Mike Hathaway), a starcatcher, and Molly Aster (Dani Holway), his apprentice and daughter, as they set out on a mission to collect and dispose of "starstuff," a magical powder that brings out the best and worst in people's deepest desires. To share this fast-moving and layered plotline, director Ashley H. White brings together an 18-person cast who move as one dropping in and out of roles ranging from narrator and pirate to squeaky ship door and inanimate pussycat. The fluid, dance-like movement is choreographed by Michael Albee and further brought to life by an emphatic musical score with M. Shane Hurst on keyboard and Kevin Cho on percussion. The end result makes STARCATCHER feel like something more than just a play; it's the kind of play acting you did as a kid where bedsheet forts became realistic castles and carpet could turn in to hot lava at a moment's notice. All you have to do is believe.
Throughout the show, Boy/Peter (Chapman Blake) expresses his aversion to grown-ups, and growing up, based on his experience as a mistreated orphan. This further emphasizes the kid-like point of view of the storyline and the ability for characters to be break the forth wall as needed, be it for story narration or just comedic effect. And no one does this more, or better, than the feared pirate Black Stache (Shane Strawbridge), an over-the-top marauder with a penchant for malapropisms brought to life with a mixture of Paul Lynde flair and Tim-Curry-as-Dr. Frank-N-Furter cunningness. Black Stache is paired perfectly with a jolly and goofy Smee (Joe Messina) making for some very funny sight gags. Although in the second act the duo did occasionally stretch their routines a bit too far taking away slightly from the overall rhythm of an otherwise fast-moving show.
What truly makes this version of STARCATCHER shine is the ability to convince the audience of the believability of a situation. In this never never land, you don't need elaborate set pieces and props to bring the story to life; a piece of rope can become a pirate ship and mermaids appear with some fabric and strategically placed cups. And therein lies the "starstuff," and the ability to bring out the best parts of imagined storytelling and live theater.
The Tarrant County premiere of PETER AND THE STARCATCHER plays at ONSTAGE in Bedford through April 9, 2017. For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.onstageinbedford.com/