by CHRISTINE SARKES SASSEVILLE
Peter and the Starcatcher at the Orpheum Theatre, through this weekend only, is a high-octane and hilarious voyage to Neverland, with wildly innovative staging and scene-chewing acting that will have you laughing out loud and marveling at the inventiveness of it all. The five-time Tony Award winning adaptation by Rick Elice is based on the bestselling 2006 children’s novel of a similar name by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, which was written as a prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy.
At the start of the play, we meet immediately the talented ensemble cast of 12 actors, who introduce us to the plot and promise to answer the questions of how Peter Pan becomes the boy who never grew up and how he meets his nemesis.The ensemble cast becomes the heart and literal hardware of the play, transforming into dozens of characters as well as actual props on the minimalist set. Soon, we meet Lord Aster (Nathan Hosner), his precocious teenage daughter Molly (an outstanding Megan Stern), and her nanny, Mrs. Bumbrake (Benjamin Schrader). They are sent on Her Majesty’s secret mission aboard two vessels, The Wasp and a decoy ship The Neverland, to destroy a treasure chest full of “Starstuff” at a volcano on a faraway island. The use of props, lighting, ladders, ropes, two model ships, and other clever and ordinary materials, immediately transports theatergoers to a land of make believe and astounds with its clever versatility. One hysterical cross-dressing mermaid scene had me taking notes for future Halloween costumes.
On the ship, we also meet an orphaned boy, simply called Boy (Joey deBettencourt) because he was never given a name. With his fellow orphans and sidekicks, Ted (Edward Tournier) and Prentiss (Carl Howell), Boy discovers that Molly is the daughter of famous Starcatcher Lord Aster, and that she is on a mission to save the world and protect the trunk filled with magical Starstuff from getting into the evil hands of the greedy pirate Black Stache (John Sanders). Sanders, the original Broadway actor, delivers an over-the-top standout performance–posing, mincing and delivering malapropisms with energetically evil zeal as he plots to steal the Queen’s treasure.The final act takes place on an island where we discover the origins of Peter Pan, and Molly and the lost boys learn about love, heroism and the dilemma of being granted your true wishes.
The dialogue is filled with many double entendres and modern vernacular that entertained adults and many middle-school fans of the book in the audience.Younger children will love the swashbuckling action and physical humor, but much of the accented, quick dialogue might be difficult for them to follow.
Peter and the Starcatcher, play by Rick Elice, based upon the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers; Music by Wayne Barker; and Movement by Steven Hoggett. March 11-16, 2014 at the Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis. Tickets $44 to $84, student/educator rush tickets available. More information at: www.hennepintheatretrust.org and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzTermu-zP0