Regional Reviews: Boston
Peter and the Starcatcher
Also see Nancy's review of In the Body of the World
The ensemble is made up of some starry names, among them Erica Spyres as that bold girl Molly, Will McGarrahan as her nanny Mrs. Bumbrake, Damon Singletary as Lord Aster (Molly's honorable father on special assignment for Queen Victoria), and Ed Hoopman channeling Groucho Marx in the name of the incorrigible pirate king Black Stache. Robert Saoud is the good guy Captain Scott of HMS Wasp, in contrast to Dale J. Young's scheming Slank, captain of the Neverland; and Alejandro Simoes's Smee, Stache's "right hand man," and Margaret Ann Brady's Slank, first mate Alf, couldn't be more different from each other. The orphans are Marc Pierre (Boy/Peter), Tyler Simahk (wannabe leader Prentiss) and Matt Spano (always hungry Ted), and Margarita Damaris Martinez plays the nasty schoolmaster of the orphanage who sells them into the service of Slank, as well as Fighting Prawn, the leader of the Mollusks, the indigenous tribe on Rundoon.
Janie E. Howland's rough-hewn, multi-tiered set of wooden planks and billowing sheets evokes the ship's deck and provides a wonderful playground. Stornetta (keyboard) and percussionist Zachary Hardy sit on a platform above the stage, chiming in with music and sound effects to suggest the roll of the ocean and the creaking of the ship. The actors lean and tumble to convey the appropriate motion of the storm-tossed sea, and clever use of ropes frames doors, cabins, and even a boxing ring. Lighting design by Frank Meissner, Jr. turns every corner of the stage into a distinct location, from the top deck to the bowels of the ship, from the beach to the jungle, from the depths of the grotto to the peak of the island's mountain. Elisabetta Polito's costumes for the boys are grungy and gray, in contrast to Molly's lighter attire, and both Lord Aster and Black Stache cut dashing figures. Speaking of cutting, no one suffers any gashes in the skillfully choreographed sword fights, thanks to J.T. Turner.
Robbins gets credit for the most delightful moments in the play with her Busby Berkeley-ish choreography in the production number at the top of the second act. Men and women alike are outfitted in colorfully garish mermaid costumes (again, kudos to Polito), and they sing and dance with glee and feather fans. Unfortunately, there are not enough such moments in Peter and the Starcatcher and, in spite of an infectious joie de vivre among the ensemble, it often sags under its own weight. Although I read the book ("Peter and the Starcatchers") and a couple of the sequels, Elice's adaptation lacks clarity, and the minimalism of the stagecraft, while conducive to engaging the imagination, doesn't add a lot of details that could help flesh out the story for those who are unfamiliar with it. One should not have to read the lengthy Wikipedia entry to understand what has transpired. The hints of things that will come to pass are fun to track (e.g., establishing the relationship between Captain Hook and the crocodile) and the characters are well drawn, but Peter feels like a minor player in his own story, coming across as far less interesting than intrepid Molly and some of the other ancillary characters.
My view is not in synch with the opening day audience response at the Lyric Stage. They seemed to be much more captivated by the play, which, by the way garnered a slew of nominations and awards when it was produced both Off-Broadway (2011) and on Broadway (2012). Overall, there are many positive aspects to this production, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Peter and the Starcatcher is earthbound when it should take flight.
Peter and the Starcatcher, performances through June 26, 2016, at Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street, Boston, MA; Box Office 617-585- 5678 or www.lyricstage.com.
A play by Rick Elice, Based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Music by Wayne Barker, Directed by Spiro Veloudos; Music Director, Catherine Stornetta; Choreography & Musical Staging, Ilyse Robbins; Scenic Design, Janie E. Howland; Costume Design, Elisabetta Polito; Lighting Design, Frank Meissner, Jr.; Stage Combat Choreographer, J.T. Turner; Dialect Coach, Bryn Austin; Production Stage Manager, Nerys Powell
Cast (in alphabetical order): Margaret Ann Brady, Ed Hoopman, Margarita Damaris Martinez, Will McGarrahan, Marc Pierre, Robert Saoud, Tyler Simahk, Alejandro Simoes, Damon Singletary, Matt Spano, Erica Spyres, Dale J. Young