Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Pleasant Peter

For fans of Peter Pan, Peter and the Starcatcher is a bit hit-or-miss.




Things are not always as they seem. 

Or at least that's the conclusion I came to while watching Peter and the Starcatcher, the newest iteration of the creation of Peter Pan. 

Peter and the Starcatcher is a story explaining why Peter became Peter Pan. It follows a shy, nameless orphan  boy on the wrong boat who suddenly runs into an extraordinary girl named Molly. Molly is a starcatcher, one of an elect group of specially trained people who keep powerful magical elements from ending up in the wrong hands. When two corrupt captains overtake their ship and battle for control of the treasure Molly is safekeeping, the boy becomes her right hand. In the process, he earns the name Peter Pan and is covered in magical dust, which gives him the confidence to go off on his own. 

There are many more details to the story, of course, but that is the gist. And on the whole, it's an intriguing concept. Unfortunately, the first half of the show spends most of its time demonstrating how lonely Peter is in the bowels of the ship, and less explaining the more compelling details of the Pan transition. Which is a shame, because the very comedic second act proves that the potential for this development is there. 

That's not to say that the cast doesn't give the show all they have, though. Molly (Megan Stern) is the most fun to watch, imbuing her young 'starcatcher' role with a sort of steampunk Wednesday Addams vibe. It's completely unexpected, and it definitely keeps the audience on their toes. Joey deBettencourt is appropriately sullen as the nameless boy who becomes Peter Pan, and provides a vivid contrast to the mischievous imp we all traditionally know. 

John Sanders is the most fun to watch, though, creating an absolutely riotous caricature of Black Stache (the predecessor to Captain Hook, of course). Sanders is a total ham, and singlehandedly rescues the show on more than one occasion. 

Surprisingly, there isn't much music to be found in Peter and the Starcatcher. What is there is great, and I wish they'd add more of it. Props are really creative, particularly in the use of simple ropes to create the illusion of doors, walls, stairs, furniture, and other assorted built items. The set is also fun, either evoking the dark but mysterious bowels of a ship or the hot, steamy air of an island (which we all could use a little more of in Minneapolis right now). 

I imagine that the myth of Peter Pan will always be a beloved one, and there's a lot of fun to be found in this creative portrayal of how Peter came to be. Could it be shorter? More musical? More closely tied to the original story? Sure, on all counts. But Neverland will always be a magical place to visit regardless, and any fans of Pan's owe it to themselves to add this tale to their memories of him. 

For more information about tickets or the rest of Hennepin Theater Trust's excellent upcoming season, click on this link