Peter Pan prequel on stage in Simi
by Jim Spencer & Shirley Lorraine
Peter Pan. Tinkerbell. Wendy. J. M. Barrie created these iconic characters and the story of the boy who would never grow up in 1902. One hundred years later another Barry, humorist Dave Barry, along with co-author Ridley Peterson, launched a widely popular series (now five books) of children’s adventures that continues the tales of Peter and his friends.
The first in the saga, Peter and the Starcatcher, is a prequel to the original story. It tells how an orphan boy in Victorian England and his mates end up on ship with a mysterious cargo bound for an island. How he meets a young girl (Molly – destined to become Wendy’s mother) who has a special connection to powerful star stuff. How pirates become involved and more.
The stage adaptation of the first novel received five Tony awards. The Broadway script introduced grown-up story-telling, production and comedy techniques, all the while retaining both the charm of the era and the characters.
Produced by the prolific and talented Jan Glasband and her Actors Repertory Theatre of Simi (ACTS), the play is now on stage at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center through August.
Featured is a marvelous ensemble of a dozen actors who play close to 100 different parts – from pirates to mermaids to agitated native islanders. The differences in their various characterizations are well defined and engaging. Laughs abound as the fast-paced action progresses.
Starcatcher is billed as a play with music. It only has seven musical numbers. The excellent blending of the essentially all male chorus (and one female) is a joy to hear, with special kudos for the individual vocal performances of Katherine Bottoms (Molly) and Will Shupe (pirate captain Black [Mous-]Stache).
The use of pronounced accents and rapid-fire delivery may take California ears a few minutes to acclimate to before things become clear. The non-stop action doesn’t wait for the audience to catch up, as there are rarely breaks to do so.
Occasional dangled references to the J.M. Barrie story also provide a mental scavenger hunt for those familiar with the classic tale. For some of the younger set, the story may be a bit confusing until all is wrapped up at the end.
Outstanding direction and creative staging of the piece are provided by Sean P. Harrington, ably enhanced by the skillful choreography of Becky Castells. Nothing lags. The action and dialogue move smoothly at high speed. The actors’ movements, scene changes and interactions are all skillfully coordinated. Harrington not only has the actors use the set effectively, they become set pieces at various times, adding previously unused dimensions to the flying repartee. The production is fresh fare for the family.
Performances of Peter and the Starcatcher continue until August 28, 2016 at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Simi Valley Cultural Center, 3050 Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley. Tickets: $25-adults. $22-seniors/students. $18-children. (805) 583-7900 or www.simi-arts.org