by Terrance Mc Arthur
Did you ever wonder how Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and Tinkerbell got to be what they were, and how they all got to Neverland? Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson did, and they wrote Peter and the Starcatcher. Rick Elice adapted it, with music by Wayne Barker, for the stage as Peter and the Starcatcher, and it now sails into Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theatre as a Good Company Players production, helmed by Emily Pessano as director.
An orphan to be named later (Alex Figueroa) is part of a shipment consigned to the king of far-distant Rundoon. Also aboard the slow ship Never Land is Molly (Karlie Stemler), daughter of Lord Aster (Alex Vaux), a diplomat on his way to Rundoon on a fierce warship with a mysterious box in the hold. Oddly enough, an identical box is aboard the Never Land. There are nasty sailors (Jesse McCoy), not-so-nasty sailors (Steve Souza), a giddy governess (Brian Rhea), evil pirates (Teddy Maldonado, Shawn Williams), natives (Tim Smith, Jesse McCoy), a chorus line of odd-looking mermaids, a flock of birds created with yellow surgical gloves, and as many characters as you could never imagine being played by a cast of nineteen performers.
Stemler is a product of the GCP Junior Company program, an example of what can be done with theatre training and young people. She is confident, caring, and brimming with Girl Power, a clear voice that takes command of the situation. Figueroa develops from a withdrawn, lost boy who questions the authority of others around him into a dynamic, take-charge individual exploring his own capabilities, protective of others, but determined not to become what he sees as the trap of being a grown-up.
McCoy is Slank, captain of the run-down Never Land. He’s shifty, sneaky, and cruel to the orphan boys he treats as cargo—on the Tim Curry scale, more Pennywise than Frankenfurter. He’s also an erudite native on Mollusk Island. Vaux is aristocratic but sympathetic, concerned about his daughter, and suitably Victorian. Souza is a not-so-bright sailor who isn’t put off by a dinner that is still wriggling, and he metamorphoses into an amazingly sage creature. His change in style shows great range. Smith is the chieftain of the off-the-norm natives with a well-earned hatred of the British—well, most of them.
Rhea looks Monty-Python-esque womanly in his frock and bonnet and curling pigtails, guarding Molly and flirting with sailors. Williams looks all grown up and scruffy as the pirate flunky, Smee, played as more sinister and effective than the Disney version. Tim Diliberto and Antonio Olivera are energetic as two fellow orphans on a trip they never imagined.As the main pirate, The Black Stache, Teddy Maldonado combines the snark of Nathan Lane with the pantomime reactions of Lucille Ball. Outside of Dan Pessano himself, he is the only person I could see creating five solid minutes of hilarity out of the simple action of closing a trunk. His cheerful malapropisms, rubber-faced expressions, and the character’s undeserved swagger blend into a watchable, fascinating, Cracker Jack comedy performance.
Set designer David Pierce provides a false proscenium of found objects and a glorious environment for make-believe. Emily choreographed the cast into living scenery with rope and artful posing. Just an FYI, even though this is a prequel to Peter Pan, some parts may raise questions that could make parents of young children uncomfortable. The Junior Company youngsters contribute a tuneful preshow of star, earth, and moon songs.
Starcatcher mashes fantasy, satire, story theatre narration, and variations on our childhood memories into a wild, rollicking evening of theatre at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theatre, 1226 N Wishon Ave. through May 14. For more information, call (559) 266-9494 or go to gcplayers.com and on KRL’s Good Company Players event page.
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