Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Peter and the Starcatcher and I Married and Angel
Also see Jeanie's review of A Message
There are many laughs in this two hour thirty minute farce, owing mostly to John Sanders as Black Stache (who became Captain Hook). He steals the show with fast-paced malapropisms such as "no man is an archipelago." The rubber-limbed actor is scrumptiously entertaining. His direct address to the audience is intended to grovel and it certainly does. He particularly brings down the house when he "suffers" a self-inflicted injury that establishes his identity in the later tales of Peter Pan. He doesn't just do a comic double-take or even a triple-take but a long, hilariously drawn out hundred-fold take.
There is a plot in the crazy production. Two ships sail from England to a remote colony during the Victorian era. Lord Aster (Nathan Hosner) is transporting a mysterious trunk. He put his plucky daughter Molly (Megan Stern) on the other ship to remove her from the threat attached to the cargo. Molly discovers that her ship is transporting orphans to a dire fate and she makes special friends with the one who has never even had a name (Joey deBettencourt). Pirates, led by the devilishly comic Back Stache, take over Aster's ship, then pursue the one Molly and the orphan boys are on.
Peter and the Starcatcher, directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, is packed with hilarious wordplay, topical anachronisms, sight gags, and composer Wayne Barker's vaudeville songs, luminously performed by music director-keyboardist Andy Grobengieser in a box on one side of the audience and percussionist Jeremy Lowe on the other. There are cannibalism jokes aimed toward the under 12 members of the audience and one-liners about Philip Glass and Ayn Rand for the adults. In a highlight at the opening of the second act, a group of husky men in unfinished drag as mermaids sing a distinctly British tradition of music-hall camp.
The proscenium stage in the first act is made to look like a ship, with low tech props like bottles, sticks, kitchen utensils, cork and wire that is very cleverly and impeccably placed. There is a treacherous storm at sea, whipped up and well done by the cast of twelve. Costumes by Paloma Young are clever punk outfits. There is wonderful creative lightning by Jeff Croiter, especially in the second act against flowing curtain-like back-cloths on an almost bare stage.
The three boys and Molly are the heart of this production. All are excellent in their roles. Joey deBettencourt gives an engaging performance as the boy who later became Peter Pan. Megan Stern provides a pleasing performance as Molly (you can guess who she grows up to be). Nathan Hosner is exceptional as Lord Aster, Molly's father. Jimonn Cole is lively as Slank. Carl Howell as Prentiss and Edward Tournier as Ted, the boy's companions, are charming in their youthful roles.
The touring production of Peter and the Starcatcher plays through December 1 at the Curran Theatre, 445 Geary Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 888-746-1799 or on line at www.shnsf.com. For more information on the tour, visit peterandthestarcatcher.com.Coming up next is The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess opening at the Golden Gate Theatre on November 12th and running through December 8th. The Book of Mormon opens at the Orpheum on November 27 and runs through December 19th.
With a piano, superbly played by Dave Dobrusky, and woodwinds played by Nick Di Scale in lieu of an orchestra, and an ensemble of performers of varying experience and polish, the production offers a vivid glimpse into the heaven that is Rodgers and Hart.
I Married An Angel takes place in Budapest in the late 1930s. Count Willy Palaffi (Sean Thompson), head of the Palaffi bank, swears to marry no one but an angel and, of course, almost instantaneously, one flies right into the room, wings and all. They marry, but her truth-telling way angers his wealthy depositors and causes a run on the bank. Willy's sister, the daffy Countess Palaffi (Allison F. Rich), indoctrinates the angel into the ways of this world and all ends happily, right on cue.
Director Greg MacKellan's staging is solid. The unit set by Hector Zavala with a background of a Danube River and a Budapest scene keeps the play moving smoothly without changes, and the costume designs by Ruth Raser Timbrell are the quintessence of sophistication. Choreography by Zack Thomas Wilde, especially the two dance/tap numbers by Halsey Varady and Nathaniel Rothrock to "How to Win Friends and Influence People" and "At the Roxy Music Hall," are show stoppers.
Sean Thompson, making his West Coast debut, is exceptional as Palaffi and his rendition of the immortal ballad "Spring Is Here" is sublime. Kari Yancy makes a delightful and believable Angel. Both have dynamic voices in their duets of "Tell Me I know How to Love", Spring is Here" and "I Married an Angel." Halsey Varady is effervescent as the rejected fiancée, a swinging ex-Roxy dancer, and almost steals the show along with Nathaniel Rothrock as Willy's best friend Peter Mueller in their specialty numbers. Allison Rich plays the hero's wisecracking man-savvy sister Peggy who teaches the angel how to survive on earth. She has most of the witty lines ("Are all women bad?" asks the angel; Peggy replies, "Only the good ones.") and is marvelous, especially with her powerful vocal cords belting out "A Twinkle in Your Eye." Bill Fahrner exhibits a great prudish tightfistedness in the role of Harry, the bank's biggest depositor. He also shows strong vocal chops in "I'll Tell the Man in the Street."
Elena Ruggiero, Abby Simmons, Megan Stetson and Victoria Stewart-Davis excellently play angel sisters who descend from Heaven when summoned for help with the mortal marriage. They also double in the roles of plotting socialites. Rounding out the cast are Justin Gillman in the double role of Anton the major-domo and Janos, and Stephen Vaught as General Lukash; both are agreeable in their roles.
I Married an Angel runs through November 17th at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-255-8207 or visit www.42ndStMoon.org. Coming up next will be Snoopy!!!.