James Daly as Prentiss, Kate Besworth as Molly, Charlie Gallant as Boy and Andrew Broderick as Ted in Peter and the Starcatcher. Photo by David Cooper.
Reviewed by James Karas
Peter and the Starcatcher can fairly and accurately be described in the hackneyed phrase as “a show for all ages.” It is rowdy, action-packed, fantastical, funny and very literate. The last accolade is very significant because your youngster should be very bright to enjoy the allusions, anachronistic references and malapropisms that fill the play.
The play, with some wonderful songs by Wayne Barker, is based on Peter and the Starcatchers, Dave Barry’s and Ridley Pearson’s 2004 children’s novel. Rick Elice has extracted a play from the novel and the result is bountiful fun.
A stageful of young and not-so-young people in what looks like the hull of an old ship set off for separate voyages carrying two trunks. We are in the heyday of the British Empire, Queen Victoria is our sovereign and the Never Land and the Wasp set sail for mythical Rundoon.
The plot of many twists on board the Never Land and the Wasp revolves around the Boy (Charlie Gallant) and Molly (Kate Besworth), the contents of the trunks and the misadventures of everyone. The Boy is an unhappy orphan who has been put on the Never Land to be gotten rid of. He will eventually acquire a first name and a surname and learn to fly. This is just the beginning for him and he will become very famous because his name is Peter Pan.
His friend and competitor is the feisty, competitive and intelligent Molly, the daughter of Lord Aster (Patrick Galligan). Besworth’s Molly is athletic, assertive, and simply delightful.
We have pirates especially Black Stache (Martin Happer) with his trademark black mustache and his torture of the English language. Stache has a hilarious sidekick in Smee (Jonathan Tan) who somehow ends up as a mermaid.
Jonathan Tan as Smee, Patrick Galligan as Lord Aster and Martin Happer as Black Stache, with the cast of Peter and the Starcatcher. Photo by David Cooper.
Billy Lake gets to play four nasty people from the sadistic schoolteacher Grempkin, to Sanchez, the worst sailor ever and Fighting Prawn, the chief of the Mollusk Islanders. He will rhyme off enough Italian dishes to fill a large restaurant menu.
There is also Alf (Shawn Wright) a gruff sailor that you should assiduously avoid lest he lean over and, as Chaucer put it, “let fly a fart as loud as it had been a thunder-clap” which he does!
The play is simply hilarious. The day I saw it (May 21, 2015) there was a busload of children who added immensely to the pleasure of the play. Their reactions were so wonderful and refreshing that they became part of the performance. When Peter gives a tiny kiss to Molly, the reaction of the youngsters was a prolonged “woooo.” They also laughed uproariously and their elation was infectious.
Director Jackie Maxwell leaves no star unturned to achieve a major comic event and a play that has fantasy and wonder and indeed star-catching.
Combine fantasy, magic, fun and literate repartee and you have a splendid show. It is a rare combination and if you have a youngster within reach, grab her or him and rush them off to Niagara-on-the-Lake. You will be doing yourself a great favour.