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BWW Review: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER Evokes Wonder at Constellation Theatre Company

When I told my fellow theatre-loving friends that my next show was PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, their eyes lit up. It was more than just excitement, it was the reaction that we frequently miss nowadays: pure childlike wonder and joy. "Oh I love that show," they all said.

I can now say with the same wonder that PETER AND THE STARCATCHER is, in short, a piece of magic, and the current production at Constellation Theatre Company performs its spells well. It is colorful, it is funny, it is relevant, and it will bring out your inner child and ridiculous adult simultaneously.

The prequel to J.M. Barrie's classic story of PETER PAN follows two ships, two missions, and two children in very different circumstances. Molly Aster (the determined, sensational Megan Graves) is an apprentice "starcatcher" who wants to help her father and prove the worth of a bright, adept girl. She encounters an unnamed boy (the endearing, daring DALLAS TOLENTINO) and his mates, all of whom are unknowingly being sold to the king of Rundoon. Add in "star stuff", pirates, mollusks, poetry, crossdressing and the terrors of being at sea, and you have a very full, rich show. There is always something to look at, and that's a definite credit.

Playwright Rick Elice takes Dave Barry's and Ridley Pearson's book and weaves intricate storytelling with wordplay and characters who leap off the page. Black Stache (the convivial Michael John Casey), a both "ruthless" and "nancy" pirate, constantly confuses his words, making him the most ridiculous not really villain you can imagine for this scenario. Molly's father Lord Aster (Alex Vernon) maintains his rigid sense of duty, an ideal foil for his enemy. There are constant themes of honesty, home and the fear of growing up There are moments that show just how adult kids can be, and vice versa. It's everything you might expect when thinking of that mischievous flying hero we know from childhood and where he may have started.

While the show isn't really a musical, there are musical interludes including one standout, completely ridiculous number to kick off Act II. I've seen many of these actors perform on their own around DC, and they make a strong collective unit. Director KATHRYN CHASE BRYER and choreographers KELLY MAXNER and MOLLYE MAXNER have embedded a lot of choreography and character switching, and you can tell the amount of practice and timing each actor must consider.

Other standout performances include Jordan Campbell as the not-so-uptight Mrs. Bumbrake and sage yet effervescent Teacher and CHRISTOPHER Michael Richardson as the hungry, clumsy Ted. Huge praise to KENDRA RAI for costume design, including the very funny amount of detail that goes into the magically transformed mermaids and Italian(ish) mollusks.

If there is one thing I would point out with this production, it's volume levels. For a significant portion of Act 1, there are both storms and battles with a lot happening. I'm not sure if was collective choice or direction, but that whole sequence was incredibly loud for the 100-seat SOURCE theatre. Balance like this is something I see a lot of theatres struggle with whether they have microphones or not. However, nuance can be helpful even when the tension and action are high. There were also occasions when lines were spoken over one another which could easily cause confusion or a missed joke.

Are there parts of this play that are beyond silly? Yes. Do we need a play like that right now? Yes. See for yourself, feel like a kid again and check out PETER AND THE STARCATCHER before it is off to (you guessed it) Neverland.

Constellation Theatre Company's production of PETER AND THE STARCATCHER continues through March 12th at SOURCE on 14th Street. For more information, visit their production page. Photos are by Daniel Schwartz.

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From This Author Heather Nadolny