BWW REVIEW: Magic Is Missing from Lyric's PETER AND THE STARCATCHER

BWW REVIEW: Magic Is Missing from Lyric's PETER AND THE STARCATCHER

A play by Rick Elice; based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson; music by Wayne Barker; directed by Spiro Veloudos; music director, Catherine Stornetta; choreographer, Ilyse Robbins; scenic design, Janie E. Howland; costume design, Elisabetta Polito; lighting design, Frank Meissner, Jr.; stage combat choreographer, J.T. Turner; dialect coach, Bryn Austin

Cast:

Ed Hoopman, Black Stache; Erica Spyres, Molly; Marc Pierre, Boy/Peter; Margarita Damaris Martinez, Grempkin/Mack/Sanchez/Fighting Prawn; Will McGarrahan, Mrs. Bumbrake/Teacher; Dale J. Young, Slank/Hawking Clam; Alejandro Simoes, Smee; Tyler Simahk, Prentiss; Margaret Ann Brady, Alf; Damon Singletary, Lord Aster; Robert Saoud, Captain Scott; Matt Spano, Ted

Performances and Tickets:

Now through June 26, Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street, Boston; tickets start at $25 and are available at the Box Office, online at www.lyricstage.com or by calling 617-585-5678.

BWW REVIEW: Magic Is Missing from Lyric's PETER AND THE STARCATCHERJ.M. Barrie's 1904 classic Peter Pan has spawned any number of adaptations. There is the evergreen musical of the same name that saw Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan, and Cathy Rigby put their own indelible stamps on the "boy who wouldn't grow up." There's Hook, the movie sequel starring Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman that saw an adult Peter return to Neverland to save his own son from the infamous Captain. More recently there's Finding Neverland, Harvey Weinstein's movie-prequel-turned-Broadway-musical that supposes how the real-life Llewelyn Davies family inspired Barrie to write his most popular work.

Currently performing at the Lyric Stage in Boston is yet another spinoff, PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, Rick Elice's (Jersey Boys, The Addams Family) theatrical prequel based on the best-selling children's novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. On and Off-Broadway, this high-energy, whimsical back story, directed by Alex Timbers and the late Roger Rees, took riotous, magical flight. At the Lyric, Peter barely gets off the ground.

The story centers on the feisty young Molly (Erica Spyres), a Victorian Era feminist-in-the-making who is charged by her father Lord Aster (Damon Singletary) with protecting a trunk full of "star stuff" on its passage aboard the seedy cargo ship Neverland. On board she meets three orphans, Prentiss (Tyler Simahk), Ted (Matt Spano), and the nameless one called simply "boy" (Marc Pierre), who will later be dubbed Peter. Molly immediately appoints herself the leader of these "lost boys" who quickly decide to call her "Mother." Soon the dastardly Captain Slank (Dale J. Young) imprisons Molly and the lost boys, planning to keep them as slaves. Molly's Nanny Mrs. Bumbrake (Will McGarrahan, in a bit of delicious gender bending casting) is no help because she has become enamored with the rough and tumble sailor Alf (Margaret Ann Brady, also cast against "type.") It is up to Molly, then, to devise an escape plan and convince Peter and the boys to follow her.

BWW REVIEW: Magic Is Missing from Lyric's PETER AND THE STARCATCHERLord Aster, meanwhile, is sailing with Captain Scott (Robert Saoud) on Her Majesty's ship The Wasp. He, too, is protecting a trunk, this one belonging to the Queen. The fact that it is identical to the trunk containing Molly's star stuff telegraphs future mix-ups and plot twists. When The Wasp is hijacked by pirates led by the flamboyant Black Stache (Ed Hoopman), all three ships end up wrecked with survivors landing on the same mysterious island. Later rather than sooner the means by which Peter becomes the boy who wouldn't grow up is revealed, with characters ultimately morphing into the iconic personae of Hook, Tinkerbell, Wendy, Nana, the crocodile, and the various denizens of Neverland. With fairy dust at last sprinkled, PETER finally takes off.

Elice's script is long and sometimes meandering, peppered with anachronisms and often groan-worthy juvenile humor. Its success depends on tremendous stagecraft, split-second timing, and bravura performances to elevate the storytelling beyond the tedium of the story. Too often with the Lyric Stage production, PETER AND THE STARCATCHER feels Earth-bound. There are inventive bits where the actors literally become the scenery, but in a no-holds-barred music hall melodrama like this they should often chew that scenery, too.

Ed Hoopman comes closest to the heightened style required as the exasperated pirate king Black Stache. His preening, mustache-twirling, accident-prone villain is equal parts Grouch Marx and Cyril Ritchard. Alejandro Simoes is delightful as Stache's hapless lap dog Smee, and Will McGarrahan as Mrs. Bumbrake and Margaret Ann Brady as Alf provide lusty and crusty comic relief delivered with effortless panache.

BWW REVIEW: Magic Is Missing from Lyric's PETER AND THE STARCATCHERAs Molly, Erica Spyres injects the necessary degree of spunk into her obnoxiously confident and competent "star catcher," but it's sometimes difficult to hear all of her dialog, especially when her accent swallows the last few words of her sentences. As Peter, Marc Pierre is missing the cock-sure bravado one has come to expect of the boy who defeats all comers with death-defying, swashbuckling glory.

Matt Spano as Ted and Tyler Simahk as Prentiss have actually fashioned more interesting characters as Peter's sidekicks. Spano is particularly sympathetic and funny as a boy who is perpetually hungry. Damon Singletary as Lord Aster makes for a dignified servant to Her Majesty and a warm and devoted father to Molly, while Margarita Damaris Martinez, Dale J. Young and Robert Saoud provide solid support in multiple roles.

Incidental music and a couple of seaworthy shanties are ably played by Catherine Stornetta on keyboards and Zachary Hardy on percussion. Janie E. Howland's wooden planked set, coupled with Frank Meissner, Jr.'s malleable lighting, transport the cast from ship to ship to ship to shore and from one time period to another with ease. Elisabetta Polito's period costumes fix the story in the proper place and time while also lending comic character touches, especially to Black Stache and a surprise singing and dancing chorus.

In retrospect, tremendous credit must be given to directors Alex Timbers and Roger Rees for making the original PETER AND THE STARCATCHER soar. They lifted Elice's clunky material with truly inventive stagecraft. While ambitious and not without imagination, the Lyric Stage production never quite achieves the same emotional uplift. The elusive feeling of magic is missing, making it difficult to believe.

PHOTOS BY GLENN PERRY: Marc Pierre as Peter and Erica Spyres as Molly; Ed Hoopman as Black Stache and the cast of Peter and the Starcatcher; Tyler Simahk as Prentiss, Erica Spyres, Marc Pierre and Matt Spano as Ted; the cast of Peter and the Starcatcher

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From This Author Jan Nargi

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