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Peter and The Star Catcher: A History and a Review of Our School Play

      On March 22, 23 and 24, Eastern University’s theater department held performances of Peter and the Starcatcher. Originally a book written in 2004 by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Starcatcher was adapted to the stage by Rick Elice. The play made its debut on Feb. 13th, 2009 at La Jolla Playhouse in California. After a brief Off-Broadway stint in 2011, it went on Broadway on April 15, 2012 until January 20, 2013. The last place the show debuted at was New World Stages in January 2014.

      The show was a great success and took home many awards at various ceremonies. The production won multiple awards at the Lucille Lortel Awards, Drama Desk Awards, Tina Awards, and Obie Awards. They also most notably were nominated for awards and performed at the Tony Awards, winning:

      Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play (Christian Borle)

      Best Sound Design of a Play (Darron L. West)

      Best Lighting Design of a Play (Jeff Croiter)

      Best Costume Design of a Play (Paloma Young)

      Best Scenic Design of a Play (Donyale Werle)

      Not only did the play and its actors and crew collect many accolades, it was reported as a “Favorite Play” by the audience of Broadway.com. Actor Christian Borle, who played Black Stache, was voted for “Favorite Funny Performance,” while Actress Celia Keenan Bolger was voted “Favorite Actress” for her performance as Molly Aster.

      Peter and the Starcatcher functions as a prequel and backstory to the beloved Disney movie, Peter Pan (although that was adapted from J.M Barrie’s 1904 play, Peter and Wendy.) The play provides information on how an orphan boy with no name became the legendary “Peter Pan” of Neverland. It also shows how Tinkerbell, Peter’s beloved fairy sidekick,  became a famous duo— well right after Peter and Black Stache become fated foes forever. Speaking of Black Stache, he is actually Captain Hook with a hand. It explains how he lost his hand and why a ticking crocodile always follows him around.  The play also provides the indirect backstory of Wendy and Jane. Finally, the appearance of star dust in Peter and the Starcatcher explains the presence of pixie dust in many adaptations.

      Since I am a part of the tech crew in the theater department, I got to work tech rehearsals and participate in the process of light hanging , sound check, cue-to-cue runs, and dress rehearsal. This is a truly wonderful (though hectic) experience, because it is really incredible seeing the bare-bones of a set design drawing and then seeing it transformed into a full blown performance with lights, sound, and action! As someone who also helps build the sets for most of the shows performed at Eastern, it is a true wonder to see a couch gutted of its upholstery and filled with two heavy crates fitted with wheels in order to look seamless for a scene transition. My boss, Stephen Wisely (who is the genius behind the spectacular set designs and especially savvy in everything tech related,)  calls it “theatre magic,” and I would have to say the results are truly magical; infused with the hard work of every performer, tech worker, stage manager, and director on the cast and crew.

      I think it is a huge compliment to that hard work that the finished product looks like magic, to the extent that no one even realizes how much effort is put in behind the scenes. This means we’ve done our jobs well and no one would question the magic that is presented on stage. But I would like to acknowledge the unsung heroes of the theater world. Not to diminish the extreme dedication and vigor of our actors and actresses, but their roles are very sung— and they sing very well if I do say so myself. However, no one can tell that they have gone through hours and hours of rehearsal in order to perfect the performance as a whole. I would say that it is a testament to their love for the stage and professional attitudes. Although I mentioned I help build the sets, “help” is a major overstatement on my part, since the Director of Tech, Professor Stephen Wiseley does about 99 percent of the work and all of the planning, while also managing his other duties with a calm and light hearted demeanor.

      Our wonderful director Mrs. Lori Reed is another amazing person that works hard without complaint. She is responsible for handling every aspect of the show, on and off scene, and she does so expertly. Because of her exuberance and positive attitude, she is fun to work with.  She handled the unexpected snow delays with natural grace and with a trust in everyone’s abilities to persevere which boosted everyone’s confidence and the overall group morale. The lighting designer that worked on this musical,Michael Yarabinee, did a spectacular job at designing the light looks along with Mrs. Lori, and operated the light board with ease. My good friend and classmate James Arnold did the same for the sound for the show, and his jokes and bright personality kept the atmosphere in the booth fun and easy, even when it was stressful. Stage manager Carissa Gulick was a great right hand to Mrs. Lori and worked tirelessly for the good of the show. The assistant stage manager Mary Cassel did a great job, along with Annabelle who managed the props.  I would like to thank the cast and crew for a wonderful show!

     Having seen the Broadway version of the show in 2013,  I already had high hopes for this production. I was completely blown out of the water by this performance. To my pleasant surprise, I heartily enjoyed this rendition of Peter and the Starcatcher, and this performance rivaled the other one I had seen because of the actor’s excellent interpretation of their characters and comedic timing.  To me, this rendition of the play was a comedy of pairs and groups. The chemistry between the actors was palpable and really shined through in their performances. Several people became standouts for me,who embraced this dynamic wholeheartedly;  Captain Black Stache and Smee, played by Parker Vowels and Nicole Brown, respectively. These two performers balanced each other so well. Although they are powerhouses on their own, Vowels and Brown complimented each other’s performances by being able to read each other’s energy levels and act accordingly,  which earned a lot of laughs and satisfaction from the crowd. Vowels inhabited his role of Black Stache, and any scene with him in it made me laugh out loud because of his enthusiasm and boisterous performance. The gender switch of Smee, who is played as a woman instead of a man in this adaption,  did not affect the quality of the play negatively, but almost enhanced the chemistry and intensity of the character. Brown played Smee expertly, always comedically fixing Stache’s malapropism with perfect comedic timing.

      Another powerful duo was Molly and Boy (later known as Peter,) played by Carly Nuneviller and William Kelly.  I have had the pleasure of working with Carly on different productions, and I think she is extremely talented and made for the theatre world. This performance only confirmed and heightened my previous opinions of her with this brilliant portrayal. Nuneviller and Kelly played the chemistry of the two characters well. They navigated the feelings of a shy, thirteen year old innocent relationship growing from an awkward crush to a realized affection and acted it beautifully, and the outpouring of emotions from both performers was so genuine. I viewed Kelly and Nuneville as co leads, as they both highlighted each other’s performances. Kelly played his character’s arch in a way that was noticeable without being a cheesy transformation. He started as an “Angsty Boy” and ended up as “Hero Peter Pan.” The last duo that stood out to me was the “lovebirds made on the NeverLand.” Alf and Mrs. Bumbrake, played by the hysterically funny Morgan Leavy and amazing Jaclyn Parzanese. Leavy and Parzanese; they were perfect. Leavy’s accent on Alf fit the character immaculately, and the two actor’s unbothered acting in scenes was a delight to watch.

     Overall, Peter and The Starcatcher is a great play, and our cast and crew did a wonderful job of making it even better. From the creative narration to keep the audience up to date during the scene changes, to the great use of props and set (i.e: the doors and door frame, stairs/ ships, cat on a string, alligator face, and Tinkerbell light,)  it was a spectacle and a pleasure to watch and review.

     Sources: broadway.com; wikipedia.org

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