Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Peter and The Starcatcher, A Bit of Insanity

If your unfamiliar with the series of books which begins with Peter and the Starcatchers created by humorist Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, that's okay,  It is series of adolescent novels that are prequels to the J.M. Barrie tale of Peter Pan.  They are the story of how an orphan becomes Peter Pan and a pirate name Black Stache  becomes Captain Hook.  If you are expecting any other clean, defining connection to the story don't.  There really isn't any.

The musical play, Peter and the Starcatcher is about as loosely related to the novels as it is to the original. That said, it is zany fun.  Dave Barry would approve, and, in fact, did.  The play is a story telling piece in which twelve actors perform as more than 100 characters.  It is the story of Boy, an orphan, who becomes Peter Pan and Molly, a Starcatcher, and their friendship. Peter just wants to be a boy for a little bit longer, and star stuff, the material that star catchers gather will give him just that.  It will in fact give him eternal youth.  What is more, it will also finally give Black Stache, the pirate, the hero to his villain that he has been looking for. Because the story involves the relationship between Peter and Molly, the play drops the "s" and it becomes Starcatcher instead of the plural name in the novel's title.

The show, with its cast of eleven men and one woman, is a good one.  The loosely related scenes are for the most part fun and more than a little bit insane.  The whole show is a little bit like the Marx Brothers meets Spamalot.  There is a steady flow of funnier and funnier scenes.  At the beginning of Act II, we are treated to the cast coming out and singing as unquestionably the funniest mermaids -not mermen- of all time.  This culminates in perhaps one of the funniest scenes I've seen on stage which is when Black Stache loses his hand which will inevitably make him the infamous Captain Hook.

This brings me to the person who steals the show.  John Sanders, who plays Black Stache in the touring company and played him on Broadway, is quick, funny, and the most memorable of characters in the play.  His Stache, to extend the earlier comparison, is the Groucho Marx of the show. He truly shows joy that all actors feel when they connect with a role.  Sanders has made that connection.

The show's adaptation comes from a process that its directors used to create its often loose cannon  style. Director Roger Rees, who is not only known for his directing skill but as the actor who portrayed Nicholas Nickleby in the play The Life and Times of Nicholas Nickleby, was asked to use the story telling methodology to adapt Peter and the Star Catcher. This was the same process used to create the eight and half hour long Nicholas Nickleby.  Soon after improving out a number of scenes, and with the approval from the authors of the book and Disney, writer Rick Elice (Jersey Boys and The Addams Family) was brought onboard to create a script that would often, thanks to the cast, look improvised.  No one thought the show would ever make it to Broadway.  When it did, no one thought it would last.  When it did, it was nominated for nine Tony Awards and took home five. It rapidly became an audience favorite.

The national tour of Peter and the Starcatcher is kicking off now in Denver and will be in town at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House through September 1.  If you can afford the tickets go see it.  If you like madcap antics and humor, you will love the show.  And don't forget to crow a little.