Wow! Just Wow! Thank you to Music Mountain for deciding to produce “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Irreverent, smart, thought-provoking, visually fun and finally moving, it is one of the best shows I have seen in the area in awhile. What can I do to encourage you to buy a ticket? It is a funny and smart play. What if I tell you that while laughing, your IQ will go up a couple of points? Actually, I think it might. Amidst a tale set in Victorian times, there are wisecracks made about everything from Michael Jackson to Philip Glass.
Within a two hour timeframe, you will meet Peter, the Lost Boys and Molly (Wendy’s mother when she was a child). Also, Captain Black Stache(soon to be Hook) and Smee and an ensemble that is covered with starstuff. Not literally, but figuratively because this is such a strong ensemble…with star moments for all onboard. The story line is that Lord Leonard Aster is carrying valuable cargo with him for Queen Victoria to the imaginary country of Rundoon on the ship, The Wasp, captained by Captain Robert Falcon Scott. There is a decoy trunk that is on another vessel, The Neverland. The Neverland is commandeered by the notorious Bill Slank, who switched the decoy on his ship for the one with the treasure. He has a crew of ne’er do wells, including Alf, an old salty sailor. Also, aboard the Neverland, are three orphan boys, Ted and Prentiss and Boy (so orphaned he doesn’t even have a name) who are to be sold into white slavery. Lord Aster’s daughter Molly is also on board with the other trunk, along with her nanny, Mrs. Betty Bumbrake. The Wasp, however, has been hijacked by pirates. The pirates are under the leadership of Captain Black Stash and second -in-command boatswain Smee. What is being brought to Rundoon by Lord Astor is a treasure worth more than gold It is star stuff. Lord Astor is a starcatcher, you see, and his daughter Molly is a starcatcher-in-training. Much happens along the way, including meeting mermaids, a giant crocodile and the Mollusks who live on an island they all end up on.
This beautifully written play by Rick Elice was taken from the 2004 novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Dave Barry, a well-known humorist and Pearson, created a satisfying comic tale in the novel that was funny and touching. Somehow, by the skill of Rick Elice, a play was made that is part Mel Brooks irreverence and the other part poetic and sentimental. Like Mel Brooks meets “The Notebook.” Though considered a play and not a musical, there are several songs in the show. The reason everyone should see this play at Music Mountain is because though, as the Bard said: “The play’s the thing,” it is also because this production is so well-executed.
Michael Licata was brought in to direct the show and he is brilliant. This is not an easy show to do and to do it so well. Actually perfect. Originally directed by Roger Rees, who many of my generation remember being in Nicholas Nickelby, which was an 8 hr play that originated in London (also shown in part on PBS) that was marvelously theatrical, using all different kinds of props, lighting, staging etc to suggest an entire Victorian universe. This is being done in “Peter” with actors scurrying about, donning different costumes and finding props so fast as to keep the script afloat. It is what theater is all about. It is that magic that only good actors can give you. It is what Licata got out of this fine troupe and it is delightful and mesmerizing and one of the best times ever!!
Riley Frankhouser as Boy/Peter is a revelation. So natural and in the moment. He had been out of the area for awhile. He is working in another field currently, but he is such a fine actor and should do a lot more acting. (I have a penchant for stating the obvious)…One of the most exciting things to see recently at MMT are all the new talent(or not seen in awhile) that is being cast in shows.
Suzanne LaGreca can play anything. She was the Chaperone in “The Drowsy Chaperone,” in a role that is a 180 from the starry eyed, courageous, yet vulnerable Molly Aster in this show. Her Molly warms your heart, makes you smile and then makes you cry…beautiful performance.
Louis Palena has given us many fine performances. This is one of his best. Captain Black Stache, a.k.a Hook, is all swashbuckling camp. He is sophisticated, slithery grease that is charming and offensive at the same delicious time. Cyril Richard, the original Captain Hook in the Mary Martin TV special, is looking down in envy. Jordan Brennan as Smee is smiling mayhem, cheerfully serving Captain Black Stache.
David McCloughan, Jr. Well, left me gobsmacked. Always funny, but never this outrageous as Mrs. Betty Bumbrake. Nuanced, hilarious and real. McLoughan nailed it. Jeff LaGreca can do no wrong. He was brilliantly funny when last seen at MMT in “The Drowsy Chaperone” and this time as Alf, the old sea salt on The Neverland who is smitten with Betty Bumbrake. They are the cutest couple on the Seven Seas. He is like a piece of figgy dowdy and she is a pot of steaming tea. Yeah. They are that cute that you ‘wax poetic.’
Michael Gearty has not given up his magical power as a shape shifter, last seen in multiple roles in “Gentlemen’s Guide” at this venue. He is savagely funny in the roles of Bill Slank and Fighting Prawn, leader of the Mollusks. The talented John Fischer is also part of this all-star cast. As the handsome, stalwart father of Maggie, it is type casting at its best. Albeit, Fischer can go from leading man to character actor in a heartbeat.
Kudos to the rest of the ensemble Tyler Brennan, Cyrus Carter, Alex Klein, Roger Madding, Mike Pikril and the wonderful Colby Langweiler (talented understudy for Molly)
Like any good recipe for success, this show is a theatrical feast due to its great ingredients: director, actors & crew and a truly delightful script.
THIS IS A MUST SEE. DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND SEE THIS SHOW. Fly to see it.
Runs to March 12th.