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Peter and the Starcatcher
by Rick Elice
Based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Music by Wayne Barker
Directed by Blake Robison
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
December 4th, 2015

Spencer Davis Milford, Betsy Hogg (Center) and the cast of Peter and the Starcatcher Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr. Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Spencer Davis Milford, Betsy Hogg (Center) and the cast of Peter and the Starcatcher
Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Peter and the Starcatcher is such a clever, whimsical, witty and enchanting play. I loved it when I saw the National Tour a few years ago at the Peabody, and now it’s being staged in a new production at the Rep, and I’ve been more than happy to revisit this marvelous show. The rep’s production, if anything, is even more cleverly staged than the tour, and with its charming cast and top-notch production values, it’s a real treat.

The problem with telling the story of this play is that so much of the action depends on surprise, and how the story ultimately relates to the classic story of Peter Pan. I’ll just say that it involves a sea voyage on two different sailing vessels, as well as pirates, orphans, mermaids, a tropical island, and a mysterious substance known as “Star Stuff”. The central figures are young Molly Aster (Betsy Hogg) and an initially unnamed orphan Boy (Spencer Davis Milford), who meet on board the ship Neverland while Molly is on a mission to support her father, Lord Aster (Clinton Brandhagen), who is sailing to the same destination on a different ship in order to deliver a dangerous cargo. The story also features the grand villainy of the ambitious Black Stache (Jeffrey C. Hawkins), who along with his henchman Smee (Jose Restrepo) and their gang of pirates, aims to disrupt Asters’ mission and claim the supposed treasure for themselves.  Much hilarity and adventure ensues in the process, with strong storytelling and inventive staging helping to advance the somewhat complicated but still entirely engaging plot.

The technical qualities of this production are nothing short of superb. With a strikingly minimalist set designed by James Kronzer and consisting mostly of a ladder and a series of trapdoors, the story is brought to vibrant life. There’s excellent lighting by Kenton Yeager, and the costumes by David Kay Mickelson are marvelously versatile and meticulously detailed. The music is also put to good use, including a fun, fanciful number that begins Act 2 and has most of the cast dressed as mermaids. It’s a fast-moving, intricately staged production where timing is essential, and every move is executed with the utmost precision.

The cast is a delight, across the board. Milford as the Boy and Hogg as Molly command the stage with their winning performances and strong chemistry. Hawkins is a comic treat as Black Stache, as well, providing many of the show’s comic highlights and supported with equal energy by Retrepo as Smee.  There are also standout performances by Andy Paterson as Molly’s nanny, Mrs. Bumbrake, Nick Vannoy as the smitten sailor Alf, and Andrew Carlyle and Sean Mellott as the Boy’s friends and fellow orphans, Ted and Prentiss. There’s so much energy, charm, and wit in this cast, and every player contributes to the sheer madcap joy of the production.

It’s fun to see how all the elements of the story are introduced and then brought together at the end to form a cohesive prologue to the more familiar Peter Pan story, but to say to much would take away from the pure wonder of this show. Peter and the Starcatcher is, simply put, a marvelous show. The Rep’s production is a treat from start to finish, and an adventure well worth taking.

Jose Restrepo, Jeffrey C. Hawkins Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr. Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Jose Restrepo, Jeffrey C. Hawkins
Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Peter and the Starcatcher is being presented by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis until December 27, 2015.

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