BWW Review: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER at The Firehouse Theatre
I have a mixed relationship with a lot of adapted works from recent years. We seem to go through phases of adapting fairytales, then superheroes, a couple of years ago it was children's stories like J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. Many of these adapted works, whether for film or stage, rely so heavily on name that they forsake content. Peter and the Starcatcher is no such adaptation. Adapted from an eponymous, already adapted work, Peter and the Starcatcher tells the story of how Peter Pan became the boy we all know. Originally staged as a movement-theatre adjacent ensemble piece, the play hopes to bring childlike ingenuity and imagination to a bleak world, filling a sparse set with wonder. Achieving the level of production that makes the already complex script work is no easy task - despite some technical setbacks, the Firehouse Theatre gets pretty close.
Starcatcher's text by Rick Elice is meant to be told as an ensemble, with various actors taking on multiple roles, providing narration, and sharing the story; this is not unlike the kind of epic storytelling made popular by pieces like The Life and Times of Nicholas Nickleby decades ago. Firehouse's ensemble seemed up to the task, quickly establishing a tempo and rhythm to the bouncing dialogue under the direction of Tyler Jeffrey Adams, despite a few muddled and over-ambitious dialects. Caitlin Jones as Molly immediately stands out, not just because she is the only woman on stage, but she moves and controls the stage with the sort of confidence such an eager young character needs. Sterling Gafford channels Christian Borle in spades with his comedically physical Black Stache, and Samuel Cress's Prentiss is witty and always on beat.
Despite the best of performances, I wonder if the Firehouse itself wasn't quite up to the task. Though Starcatcher is not a musical, it is indeed a play with music and is licensed by MTI, and is peppered with 3ish songs mostly as references to sea shanties and British bar-hall shows. If anything has troubled me about the text, the placement of these songs is probably it, and as such it's so important to get right. While the actors seemed to be capable, the pre-recorded keyboard track was anything but. I sort of have a fundamental problem with performing alongside pre-recorded tracks, though for space and cost I understand why companies do so. However, the playback and arrangement of the tracks was problematic at best, and unfortunately marred an otherwise shiny performance.
The space of the Firehouse also poses some interesting restrictions. Aside from the chilly house, the stage itself is rather restricted as well as set close to the audience. Starcatcher does not demand a ton of space: there is not a huge cast, nor are the musical numbers raging dances. However, Firehouse's tight stage at times felt crowded, despite the team's best efforts to utilize varying set levels and ladders. The entire cast was mic'ed as well, though the sound mixing was definitely choppy in the space, and I doubt necessary at all. I wonder how, in past, the venue was able to hold shows like Thoroughly Modern Millie, and will certainly be interested to see what else they are able to make work. Peter and the Starcatcher is very much so a play about self-discovery and growing up; I will be intrigued to see what the young Firehouse brings to the stage as it too learns to spread its wings.
Peter and the Starcatcher ran its last performance this past weekend, but for more information on The Firehouse Theatre and upcoming shows, visit: http://www.thefirehousetheatre.com/