This afternoon, I went to see the Los Angeles production of Peter and the Starcatcher. I'd read the opening couple paragraphs of a review when the show opened in New York (I don't like reading reviews...), and knew it was something I wanted very much to see. The show is a sort of prequel to Peter Pan, how things got to how they are, based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. It was adapted for the stage by Rick Elice who wrote the musicals Jersey Boys and The Addams Family.
The show is wonderful. It's not without its flaws, and there are some inconsistencies with the Barrie's Peter Pan. But ultimately, that's okay -- it's its own story, it comes close, and even the inconsistencies are explainable. Overall it's intelligent, very funny, touching at time, and wildly inventive. It uses simplicity and stagecraft and a few well-placed songs much the same way the play The Old Man and the Old Moon did when I raved about it at the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois, a few months back. The cast playing multiple characters and moving props around themselves in full view of the audience, using ordinary household items in other guises (a flapping rubber kitchen glove becomes a bird) and more. Much of this cleverness comes from the script, and much is owed to the co-directors, Roger Reese (who you may recall as the title character in the Royal Shakespeare Company's version of Nicholas Nickleby, and as Robin Colcord on Cheers) and Alex Timbers.
The cast has a joyous time, though a few people stood out for me. John Sanders as 'Black Stache,' who becomes basically Captain Hook, and is an utter hoot throughout. (He played the role and others into the run in New York.) What he does with the phrase, "Oh, my God," at one point is one of the more memorable theatrical LONG moments I've ever seen on stage. And Nathan Hosner was excellent as Lord Aster, the father of the female lead, young Molly (who is the Starcatcher of the title). As it happens, reading their credits, both these actors are from that very same Writers Theatre in Glencoe! (Hey, I keep telling you how good it is.) And also they've been part of the companies at the equally great Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and Goodman Theatre. And as it happens, Joe DeBettencourt, who stars as Boy (who of course turns out to become Peter) and did a very nice job, went to Northwestern. It was like Old Home Week. Rounding out the notable performances is Megan Stern, the only woman in the cast, as Molly. I wasn't crazy about her at first, but I found her performance getting richer and more interesting as the show went on, and by the end I enjoyed her work.
The play is full of wonderful wordplay, most of it delivered by the effusive John Sanders as the Captain. (How effusive? At one point, a character shouts out that a shark is chewing all the scenery. Sanders rushes onstage and shouts out, "Not while I'm in my scene!) By the way, as for some of the word play, Black Stache (Sanders) at one point screws up the name "Neverland" and refers to it as "Navel Nerd" -- which turns out to be an anagram. "I was close," he replies. "Missed it be a rabbit." His assistant Smee corrects him, "A hair." Black Stache pauses, gives a shrug and says something like, "Same difference."
Anyway, it's a terrific time, and if you live in Los Angeles and have a chance to see it before it closes soon, do try.
Here's a long 8-1/2 minute preview of the show with the original New York cast. After a montage, they then have extended dialogue scenes, so stick with it. The video seems to focus more on the drama, but know that the show is very funny. Know too that the actor playing "Black Stache" (you can't miss him, he has a big Groucho Marx-moustache) is Christian Borle who some of you might recognize as the composer on the NBC series, Smash. He won a Tony for his performance as Best Featured Actor in a Play.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor