BY SANDY STAGGS
In its final show of the season, Limestone College Theatre department sets ashore in the Tony-winning play “Peter and the Starcatcher” for what may be the first wholly sustainable production ever of this new prequel to “Peter Pan.”
Written by Rick Elice (“Jersey Boys”) and based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, this play attempts to construct the history of the iconic characters in J.M. Barrie’s classic collection of children’s novels and in a thoroughly entertaining method.
The setup is a ragtag troupe of actors that spin this fanciful tale encompassing some 100 hundred characters, and in minimalist mode with found objects as props and costumes. And in this case, directed by Dr. Tim Baxter-Ferguson, it’s a polished, graceful and sustainable high seas adventure that uses reconstructed wood pallets as set pieces and plastic bottles as props.
And all of Vandy Scoates’ inventive costumes were either re-fashioned from existing inventory, acquired at second-hand shops or made from scrap and found materials or in some cases, everyday materials such as plastic bags for the mermaid outfits. This near-zero footprint philosophy of t extends even to more efficient and lower lighting, as well as paperless ticketing.
And that includes the gorgeous gold proscenium made of papier-mâché and adorned with nautical medallions.
The first act is this wacky vaudeville-style play is full of exposition and cementing the characters as two ships prepare for a voyage with a trunk full of magical star stuff that must be destroyed before it gets into the wrong hands, per the order of Queen Victoria.
And since the mood is quite farcical and fanciful and this is a play with a handful of wonderfully silly musical numbers (by Wayne Barker), I took the liberty of summing up the plot in song. The following lyrics should accompany the theme music from “Gilligan’s Island”:
Just sit right back and they’ll tell a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this British port
Aboard two tiny ships.
The cargo was a magic starry dusty,
The Crown’s trunk for sure.
Dad and daughter set sail that day
to Rundoon Island. But not Together.
The weather started getting rough,
The tiny ships were tossed,
If not for the pirates and the greedy crew,
The Neverland would be lost, and the Wasp would be lost.
The trunk set ground on the shore of this enchanting starry isle,
With Peter Pan
and Molly too.
Two Lost Boys and Black Stashe.
A Star Catcher.
The Manny and Mermaids,
Here on Neverland Isle.
I do hope that was helpful. This is the third production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” I have seen this season, and they have all begun seemingly chaotically in the first act as we adjust to this low-tech style of storytelling that’s frenetic like “The 39 Steps” or “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” to the fourth power. This is a period that demands the audience’s attention as the plot flies by at breakneck speed (as do the actors) in a constant towing of the line between pantomime artistry and delirious mayhem.
But the second half is all bliss and then some as we witness the power of star stuff in the opening showstoppin’ “Mermaid Outta Me” and a beautifully-choreographed sequence in the jungle amidst moving paper tress,
J.R. Bloomer’s sensitive portrayal of Boy (later to be named Peter Pan) solidifies a bountiful and splendid cast that includes his orphan pals, Prentiss (a frisky Hayden Peterson) and Ted (and Christian Shupe in his best squeaky voice) and their new friend, Molly (an impressive Autumn Krueger), who is an apprentice star catcher, one entrusted to collect magical meteor dust.
Senior James Holmes (prim and proper in the show’s customary drag role) makes memorable waves as Molly’s nanny Mrs. Bumbrake, who spends much of her time being courted by a crewman Alf (Nicole Alberts). And he is even more delightful later in the Grotto as the Mermaid Teacher who enlightens Peter Pan.
Other standouts includes a pleasing Jamaas Britton as Molly’s father Lord Aster;
Jade Alford as a worthy fencer and Neverland Captain Bill Slank; a dashing Jeanna Burch as Captain Robert Falcon Scott (based on the real-life Antarctica explorer), Jessie Cantrell as Black Stashe’s mate Smee; and Kinsey Gregg as the Italian islander Fighter Prawn, among other roles.
But it’s Junior Luke Holt who makes the biggest splash in this “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Holt shows impeccable range and primo timing as the hapless pirate Black Stashe (who eventually becomes Peter Pan’s nemesis with a hook) and is cursed with a vocabulary of malapropisms. With a suave moustache and heightened exuberance, his Stashe is more “Zorro the Gay Blade” than Johnny Depp but with as much flair and charisma, often accomplished by a mere gesture or pivot. And he flaunts some meaty vocal chops in his opening verse of “Mermaid Outta Me,” which is easily the finest solo of the evening.
Ben Chumley returns as Music Director for this production and plays Wayne Barker’s frolic music hall score (the vocals in “Swim On” at the top of act one were splendid!) and waggish sound effects with aplomb and pizzazz with the help of Paula Towe on percussion.
The choreographer on this production is Jacqua Carr with fight choreography by Rob Kahn.
“Peter and the Starcatcher” runs for three nights only, Thursday-Saturday, April 20-22 at 7:30 p.m. at Limestone Center Theatre, 130 Leadmine St. in Gaffney. Tickets are available at limestone-colege.ticketleap.com/peter/