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Having never seen the five Tony Award winning PETER AND THE STARCATCHER prior to the preview at Omaha's Rose Theater last night, I did not know what to expect. I suppose I was thinking it would be similar to the classic Disney movie or the more recent Broadway hit FINDING NEVERLAND, but it was neither. And it was both.

Like FINDING NEVERLAND, this prequel is an interesting look into Peter Pan and how he might have come about. Based on the 2006 novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, the story follows an unnamed orphan called "Boy" and his two friends, Ted and Prentiss, as they set sail aboard The Neverland. They meet Molly, a 13-year-old girl (or is she 15? It is her birthday today!), and her father Lord Leonard Aster. Lord Aster is a Starcatcher who is tasked with guarding the queen's trunk of starstuff. Starstuff has the magical ability to emphasize a person's qualities, whether they are good or bad. Pirates, headed by the evilly funny Black Stache, are after the starstuff and will stop at nothing to get it.

I was initially at a loss, trying to figure out what was happening. The sound for preview night was a bit harsh, which made it difficult to understand what the actors were saying. Since the show's strength lies in the cleverness of the language, it is critical to understand their words. The show has a trunk load of quips, and witticisms, and aphorisms. If you miss one, you've missed something important. Black Stache describes his heavy black mustache as a "mouth brow," a "cookie duster," and "face foliage." Alf, with a big belly and bigger heart, complains that his thighs are flabby, but fortunately his stomach covers them. Interspersed with the quips were some moral gems such as "more important than saving your own neck is saving someone else's," and a smattering of modern terms such as "TTFN" and "swag."

I thought this would be a great show for kids and maybe not so much for adults, but my thinking has changed. With all the innuendo, references to topics that may be over younger heads, and slick tricks of the tongue, it just may be more to the liking of adults. There are references to Michaelangelo, a joke about being left on a tattoo parlor step as a baby, and others that elicited guffaws from the audience. The humor is ridiculous, yet smart. It is 'in-aargh-uably' clever! Then again, there are the fart jokes so popular with the prepubescent set!

This isn't to say that there isn't any action. There is a good deal of swashbuckling and shenanigans. One of the funniest moments involves the use of a rope.

It isn't just funny, either. There is a deeper level to the story that lingers with you after the curtain closes. Molly yearns to fly with the boys. Neglected orphan Boy becomes a brave man, and then is left to never grow up.

This cast directed by Matt Gutshick is superb! Joshua Lloyd Parker as Boy and Bethany Bresnahan who plays Molly Aster are both exceptional. They are natural in their actions, believable, and charismatic on stage. Bill Grennan is ridiculously delightful as the zany Black Stache. Matthew Pyle and Marguerite Bennett are endearing as Alf and his newfound romance, Mrs. Bumbrake. Zach Kloppenborg (Grempkin), Vincent Carlson-Brown (Bill Slank), Patrick Wolfe (Lord Aster), Tyrone Beasley (Captain Robert Falcon), Kevin Ehrhart (Smee) are all wonderful. Boy's sidekicks Ted (Ben Adams) and Prentiss (Jimmy Nguyen) are fun to watch. Robby Stone (Mack) delivers with comic perfection. The entire cast is one of the best I've seen locally.

I will admit that I was somewhat disappointed to find so little music in the production. Since PETER AND THE STARCATCHER has music by Wayne Barker and the Rose Theater has a musical director (Jerry Brabec) for the show, I anticipated there being several musical numbers. I kept hoping the cast members would break out into song and dance, but when they did, I was not overly excited about the music itself.

Scenic designer Adam Rowe created an attractive set. It is simple, yet appealing. The long strips of fabric that are suspended from rods look great; however, there was a noticeable gap at the top between the curtain and the rod last night, which enabled the audience to see the lights and wall behind the set for part of the act. The props, particularly the cat and Tinker Bell, were interesting.

So, there were some tiny bumps in the preview, but this could be starstuff for the Rose. It's silly. It's poignant. It's a big treasure in a small package.

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From This Author Christine Swerczek