The Musical Play
Peter and the Starcatcher is a ‘musical play’ that was written by Rick Elice, based off the book Peter and the Starcatchers written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson as a prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy. Premiering in California on 13 February 2009, it’s had 5 different runs, having the current national tour to end on 14 April 2015.
I am lucky enough to have caught the show in Elliott Hall at Purdue University on 9 April 2015. This particular run has two more shows: on 12 April 2015 in Eisenhower Hall Theatre at West Point, NY and 14 April in Flynn Centre for the Performing Arts at Burlington, VT. Get tickets here.
For an very extensive outline of the entire show, please read the Wikipedia entry of the play. As for a very short, perhaps irreverent summary of the play here. **Both may come with spoilers.
- Two trunks were to go to an island called Rundoon on different ships. Initially, the faster of the ships, The Wasp, was supposed to take the trunk of value along with its custodian, Lord Aster. However, Captain Slank from the other ship, The Neverland, switched the trunk before the two parted alternative routes to Rundoon. Captain Slank’s cargo includes Lord Aster’s daughter Molly, her nanny Mrs. Bumbrake and 3 orphan boys.
- Under poor accommodations on The Neverland, Mrs. Bumbrake and Molly is visited by Alf, a crewman who fancies Mrs. Bumbrake, on his way to feeding the ‘pigs.’ Molly follows Alf to find out the ‘pigs’ were the 3 orphan boys. After being acquainted, Molly leads the 3 boys in search for (better) food.
- Meanwhile, Lord Aster is taken prisoner on The Wasp as pirates led by Black Stache have taken over the ship. Despite Lord Aster’s refusal to hand over the key, Black Stache reaches into his pocket to receive the key to the supposed-valuable trunk. Black Stache opens it to reveal sand.
- Returning back to their jail cell on Neverland, the 3 boys and Molly found a cat flying above them. To distract the boys from investigating, Molly offers to tell them a bedtime story, which they have never had. Back in their cell, Molly tells them the story of Sleeping Beauty before they all fell asleep. She takes advantage of the time to talk to her father via twin necklaces. Lord Aster tells Molly that The Wasp is heading towards the Neverland, and that she must lead the valuable trunk to him ASAP. One of the boys, nicknamed Mule but technically no-named Boy, catches Molly talking to her necklace and asked for an explanation. Reluctantly, Molly tells him that her and her father are appointed starcatchers and the contents of the valuable trunk is starstuff, which needs to be destroyed in an active volcano. Caught outside his cell, Captain Slank tosses swim-inept Mule overboard.
- Molly saves Mule before the Wasp catches up to the Neverland. Captain Slank and Black Stache fight it out onboard the Neverland before it cracks in half. As Molly was trying to move the starstuff trunk to the Wasp, Captain Slank interferes only to be thrown overboard by Alf and died. Molly asks Mule to distract the pirates, which he does by pretending the sand-filled trunk is the starstuff trunk. Black Stache tries the persuade Mule to hand over the trunk by giving him a spot in his crew, officially naming him Peter, but was unsuccessful and knocked Peter off-board the Wasp before realising he had again revealed sand. Molly tosses the starstuff trunk overboard for Peter to float on as she swims towards the nearest island.
- Peter arrives at the island safely with the starstuff trunk. Barely feeling lonely, the 2 other orphans came to meet up with him. After hiding the trunk, they went looking for food only to be captured by natives led by Fighting Prawn. The natives condemn them to death via crocodile. The boys tried to haggle for their freedom with entertainment and was given a minute. Within that minute, Molly arrives to save the day with her humorous name in the natives’ tongue. Despite being amused, Fighting Prawn fed the now-four to the crocodile. As they awaited to be eaten, Molly comes up with a plan after kissing Peter. Molly decided to feed the crocodile her starstuff-containing necklace to the it instead, enlarging the crocodile to humongous.
- Black Stache and his first mate Smee arrive at the island safely, coming up with the plan to lure the children to them via music. Their scene is cut short with the appearance of the humongous crocodile.
- After being sent a message from her father, Molly wants to retrieve the starstuff trunk and take it to the beach to be taken by her father. The 2 orphan boys lead her to the trunk as Peter volunteers to distract the natives. As Peter is running, he falls into a crevice and into a grotto with a fish-made-mermaid named Teacher and gold water. Peter tells Teacher he wishes to be a boy, wish to fly and wish to have a family. Teacher told Peter that he could receive all of that with the starstuff in the trunk, and that he should have a surname. Peter was encouraged to receive the surname Pan.
- Having retrieved the starstuff trunk, Molly and the 2 orphans head down the mountain to be stormed with rain. They stop for a rest when Peter arrives. Peter and Molly talks about their near-death kiss and Peter tries to open the chest up before he runs off again.
- Molly and the 2 orphans make it to the beach to be met with Black Stache and Smee having Alf and Mrs. Bumbrake as prisoners. Then, the natives show up wanting to kill them all. Black Stache stops everyone by pulling out a knife and threatening Fighting Prawn. With a distraction from Peter, Molly and the 3 orphans were able to attack Black Stache, but was unsuccessful. With a knife on Molly’s neck, Peter gave the starstuff trunk to Black Stache, who opened it to reveal nothing.
- The starstuff in the trunk dissolved in the water when it was floated onto the island by Peter Pan. Upon the realisation of his unfortunate life, Black Stache closes the trunk and cuts off his hand. Unsuccessfully trying to lure Peter Pan to his crew, he licked his wounds and went off with Smee to try to persuade the crocodile to join his gang. The natives honour Peter Pan with his bravery and declare them to live.
- Mrs. Bumbrake, Alf, Lord Aster and Molly are prepared to leave the island for home. Molly suggested to her father to take the 3 orphans home as well, but upon hearing that Peter Pan had been exposed to starstuff water in the grotto, Lord Aster said it would be impossible. Molly further verifies his place, as “Pan” represents “All” the island is his home. Lord Aster uses his necklace to change a pesky bird into Tinker as a farewell present. Molly left a kiss for Peter Pan, as well as the knowledge that she wanted to kiss him, father than it being a near-death fluke.
- Peter Pan edges near becoming an adult whilst seeing Wendy sail away, but goes back to careless eternal boyhood. Years later, Peter visits Molly’s daughter Wendy and takes her to Neverland. She wishes he will continue taking her descendants away for the adventure. The play ends with Peter Pan flying for the first time to the grotto with the other ‘lost boys.’
Highlights of the Performance
I could be really homosexual and talk about when Bryan Welnicki aka Peter Pan had taken off his shirt to create a sail at the end of Act I was the highest point of the show, but I would be wrong. Despite it being quite a sight, it was definitely not the pinnacle of the production. I’ll try to touch base on what stuck out to me throughout the play; however, it’s really the whole production that was a success. **I’ll be talking in specifics not mentioned in the summary.
- The multi-utilisation of people and things
- When Molly got lost following Alf, the company created a wall and doors that open up to scenes that she was entering. It was amazing how quick they transformed between inanimate objects to a full-blown scene.
- Throughout the production, a simple rope was wittingly used to signify other things. It represented doors, mirrors, the ocean, and even Molly and Mrs. Bumbrake’s accommodation. It was never confusing in figuring out what it was in any particular scene.
- Astonishingly, the actors were never hard to figure out as well. There were several of the actors playing a couple of roles; however, in relation to the scene, by placement or spotlight, or simply by their change in clothes were the audience able to figure it out. As an example, it’s obvious that Fighting Prawn would not just be holding an umbrella next to Peter and not aim to capture and kill him.
- The acting overall was on point.
- The entire cast obviously gave the production their all, despite it being for a rainy day on a college campus’ venue that was perhaps 3/4 in attendance due to the (well-publicised) date change. Their voices were loud, singing amazing, actions full-ass’ed and most jokes on-time. Company numbers like the mermaid scene were beautifully performed.
- Peter Pan (Bryan Welnicki), as stated, is not a bad sight to behold, looking as if Ashley Parker Angel played Oliver Twist (*swoon*). But additionally, Welnicki plays the tortured Boy quite remarkably, which rivals Jamie Bell’s portrayal of Smike in Nicholas Nickleby. In his movements, the quiver of his voice and the progression of his character throughout the play was believable and well-performed.
- Molly Aster (Aisling Halpin) played a believable 13-year-old confident girl. The major applaud I had with her acting is the way she walked, from her high-knee stomping to prove that she’s got more stamina than the other boys to how she walked up to Peter Pan and into her father’s arms in the last scene like a little girl, it was brilliant.
- Black Stache (Joe Beuerlein) did not hold back in his performance! He was beyond humorous and his stage presence was further glorified by the fluidity of his movements, especially in his scene when he’s persuading Lord Aster to give him the key. However, as it is a review to my taste, I must state that some of his jokes ran a bit long. Most others were forgivable because perhaps the ‘wait’ was part of the joke, such as the scene with Peter and the trunk where he shrugs for a length of time, but his “Oh. My. God.” scene ran way overdue.
- Improvisations and jokes were a great way to connect with the audience.
- However long the “Oh. My. God.” scene was, the improv during the monologue would’ve been funny if I wasn’t waiting for it to end. Black Stache had other portions that he threw in present-day popular culture into the lines that made it relatable.
- Other times, it took a bit more understanding behind the laughter. After Black Stache and Smee gets on the island safely, they have some dialogue where Smee’s line reminisces Houseboat‘s quote of, “Who, sir? Me, sir?” though perhaps not exactly those words.
- Cheeky jokes were also present, such as calling a cloth as unsoiled as a convent’s sheets. It all made for great humour.
I wouldn’t rate the performance __/10 because almost everything is to a person’s taste. Peter and the Starcatcher was definitely up my alley, as I love Peter Pan and when you love something as such, you love everything involved with it (such as my other obsession, Harry Potter). And for that, my review would be bias, but for what it’s worth — the show was quite incredible.
Even though I didn’t emphasise on it above, there were many actors’ performances that were stellar in this production. Personally, I loved the portrayals of Prentiss (James Crichton), Ted (Nick Lehan) and Mrs. Bumbrake (Tim Hackney). Prentiss is the not-so-in-charge leader of the orphans (with pretty amazing hair). Ted is the often-hungry orphan that gets weak-kneed at the mention of sticky pudding. Mrs. Bumbrake, played by a man, is a widow that becomes love-stricken by Alf early in the show. These 3 actors did a stellar job at bringing outrageous humour to the performance.
With all the great acting, singing, movements and dancing along with the basic props as well as elaborate settings, my favourite thing about the show was Molly Aster’s line
“It’s supposed to hurt – that’s how you know it meant something!”
Going back to my most recent post (My Vain Scars: Proof That I’m Human, I’ve Lived and I’m Still Alive), I strongly believe in this quote. You should hurt, you should have scars, you should feel something when things happen to you. Given, I’m usually a robotic prick that doesn’t have a sympathetic bone in my body, but at least I bloody feel. Molly tells Peter this among other things, which only leads Peter to respond, “You sound like a grown up already.” Boys are assholes.
The show gave a different perspective of Peter Pan than we know. In all versions, we see a childish rude moody little boy that wants his way, but in Peter and the Starcatcher, you get a glimpse at the beginning where he is vulnerable, lack confidence and the sort to say ‘sorry.’ Starstuff and Molly changed him, and created the eternal confident boy. The one we strive to be.
Do you still have some boy left in you?