BWW Review: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER At Blackfriars Theatre
Keeping with the artistic diversity that makes this theatre a Rochester gem, Blackfriars continues its 70th anniversary season with Peter and the Starcatcher, a Tony Award-winning play like none other they've featured in recent seasons, one that's fueled by imagination, spirit, and a tremendous amount of fun.
Peter and the Starcatcher, by Rick Elice and adapted from the book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, is a prologue-of-sorts to the beloved and well-known story of Peter Pan, and introduces the audience to the origins of Neverland as well as Captain Hook, Smee, and his motley gang of pirates; Tinkerbell; and of course, Peter and his Lost Boys. A Young orphan (first known simply as "Boy" and later as "Peter" and finally "Peter Pan", played by Harry Franklin) and his mates (Joseph Buck and Ben Liebrand) are shipped off from Victorian England to a distant island ruled by the evil King Zarboff. They know nothing of the mysterious trunk in the captain's cabin, which contains a precious, otherworldly cargo. At sea, the boys are discovered by a precocious young girl named Molly (Marcella Cincotta), a Starcatcher-in-training who realizes that the trunk's precious cargo is starstuff, a celestial substance so powerful that it must never fall into the wrong hands. When the ship is taken over by pirates - led by the fearsome Black Stache (Stefan Cohen), a villain determined to claim the trunk and its treasure for his own - the journey quickly becomes a thrilling adventure.
Defying labels, Peter and the Starcatcher is equal parts play, musical, comedic farce, and whimsical children's theatre all wrapped-up in imagination and heart. One moment the audience is engrossed in an at-seas naval adventure, the next we're treated to Monty Python-esque slapstick humor, followed by an absurdist musical number featuring grown men in mermaid costumes, and interjected throughout with tenderness and youthful charm.
It's the youthful imagination that makes Starcatcher such a beautiful and heartwarming play. Much like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and other plays of its ilk, Starcatcher utilizes minimal props (though set against a beautiful production design, per usual at Blackfriars) and features actors playing a slew of different characters, and often even inanimate objects. It's a testament to the talented cohort of men (and one young woman) that director Danny Hoskins assembled. While they all shine at various moments, some of my favorites include Jason Rugg, who hilariously toggles between the shrill nanny Mrs. Bumbrake and a mystical mermaid enchantress; Mark Brummitt, a Blackfriars regular whose stuffy British Lord Aster acts as a perfect counterbalance to the zaniness surrounding him; and the comedic chemistry of Jeff Siuda's Smee and Stefan Cohen's Black Stache.
Though its plot is at-times a little dizzying (particularly in the first act, which moves at breakneck speed) and the actors would be better served with mics (the dialogue sometimes gets lost, fueling the aforementioned plot confusion), Peter and the Starcatcher is a wild ride, a truly unique and magical theatrical experience that's perfect for the whole family. It's playing at Blackfriars Theatre until December 31st. For tickets and more information, click here.