Nearly 110 years after J.M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up, premiered at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London, a fantastical prequel called Peter and the Starcatcher launched it’s nationwide tour at Denver’s Ellie Caulkins Opera House Aug. 15.
More of a play with music than a full blown musical, Peter and the Starcatcher is, nevertheless, hilarious in its entirety. Winner of five Tony Awards, Peter tells the story of how a lost boy and a pirate became two of the most beloved (and/or reviled) characters in the English canon. Think Wicked — for boys. There’s a dash of Disney and Monty Python, for good measure, too.
The show, based on the a series of books by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, is suitable for all ages, and that’s mostly what makes the production work so well. There are plenty of jokes and sentimental moments for all ages. While the dialogue is a little highbrow at first (even for adults who may just be coming off a long day at work) by time the plot starts moving everyone paying attention should be on the same page.
What little music the production has is well done. In fact, you hardly notice there is any music missing from the musical. Like all the great musicals the end of Act I and the beginning of Act II are real show stoppers, but fall short of being memorable.
And no, it’s not the extra glass of wine you had at intermission, those are (spoiler alert) real grown men with beards and mustaches in mermaid costumes on stage after intermission. (Be sure to check out the triceps on Captain Black Stache (portrayed by John Sanders).
Speaking of acting talents: the principals and supporting cast work well together. Even the actors blessed with the type of characters who should steal the show don’t. Part of the chemistry and cohesion might be attributed to the fact no matter how big the part, each member of cast is also at some point part of the the ensemble. According to the media release the company of a dozen actors play more than 100 characters.
Joey deBettencourt is the passive aggressive loner, Boy, turned hero, Peter Pan; Megan Stern is the confident albeit green Molly; and Sanders is the flamboyant, scenery chewer (by design), Stache who will (spoiler alert) need a hand transplant by the end of the show. Rounding out the cast is Nathan Hosner as Lord Aster (Molly’s father), Luke Smith as Smee (Stache’s right hand), and Benjamin Schrader as Mrs. Bumbrake (Molly’s governess).
Peter and the Starcatcher plays at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House until Sept. 1. The musical play asks adults to suspend reality and use their imaginations for the duration of the production. And that’s a good thing because there are some plot points that could use further development. But if you — like Peter — refuse to grow up, you’ll never notice.