Peter and the Star Catcher – Review by Tom Nissley

A perfect combination of elements makes this one of the best productions imaginable. An interesting, slightly mysterious, script (Rick Elice); a director for whom no detail is too small (Sean Harris); a set that accommodates so many mixed moments of awe and wonder (David Lewis); lighting that perfected it (Joe Beumer); and music arranged and directed for it (Melanie Guerin and Sean Rubin). Plus, amazing choreography by Darlene Zoller.

The cast of characters, who morphed and re-morphed into a true ensemble, included the ever-so-flexible Matthew Quinn playing Black Stache; James Patrick Nelson as Lord Aster; Natalie Sanes as Molly; Jared Starkey as Boy (Peter); Brianna Bagley and Nick Palozzo as Prentiss and Ted, who quickly bond with Boy when they are made cabin boys on the Neverland. Thomas Daniels is Slank, the captain of the Neverland, who has switched the valuable trunk meant to sail on the Wasp with Lord Aster with a worthless one meant to sail on the Neverland. Miss Sandra Mhlongo plays Smee. Colleen Welch is Mrs. Brumbake, Molly’s guardian, and James Fairchild is Alf, who immediately takes a shine to Mrs. B. Nicholas Dana Rylands is Captain Robert Falcon Scott. Elena V Levenson is Grempkin.

The plot involves Lord Aster going on a special assignment on the Wasp to deliver the trunk of precious Starstuff to a friend of the Queen (Victoria) and sending his beloved daughter Molly to travel with Mrs. Brumbake on another ship, the Neverland, while he is away. The trunks get switched, so the precious cargo is on the Neverland.

But during a storm at sea pirates take over the Neverland and race to capture the Wasp. Molly has befriended the Boy, whose name turns out to be Peter. As the Wasp is sinking, the pirates reach for the special trunk, opening it to discover it is full of sand.

When the survivors reach Mollusk Island they find a native tribe led by an evil orphan king who was so abused in an English school that he has determined to mistreat all Englishpersons. And some of the starstuff has leaked into the water in the bay turning everyone touched by it into a mermaid. Meanwhile Black Stache has captured the trunk of starstuff, not realizing that its power is intangible, and he thinks it’s empty. As he slams it shut, we get a prequel of how Captain Hook loses a hand and gains a crocodile who fancied him.

The story may be a little confusing, but the actors have been given the freedom to be thoroughly outrageous. Matthew Quinn makes the most of every opportunity to be camp with the audience, and all the ensemble numbers are beautifully designed and executed. While Jared Starkey [Boy] is being whipped, he flinches and moves as a hurt animal, magnificently. I often felt immersed in a finely tuned ballet.

Get to experience this magical production before it ends in mid-October. Tickets and information are available at www.playhouseonpark.org, or call 860-523-5900.

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre. September 22

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