Live theater returns to Huss stage with Peter and the Starcatcher

Elizabeth Trevathan

Taking the stage for their first live performance in two years, Upper School Theater  brought Peter and The Starcatcher to the Huss Center Nov. 19-20, and did not disappoint.

Based on the best-selling novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, this play, written by Rick Elice, tells a dark origin story of Peter Pan and how the magical isle of Neverland came to be.

When the original story of this daring boy and his adventures with Tinkerbell and The Lost Boys came out, many details of the story promoted harsh stereotypes. For this reason, US Theater director Eric Severson felt it was necessary to make a statement in the program regarding elements of the play that have been deliberately removed or changed:

“When Barrie’s play debuted in 1901, his Neverland was full of broad caricatures that did not change significantly in the 1911 novel Peter and Wendy. Subsequent adaptations have interrogated problematic elements of children’s literature and Victorian adventure stories. In their 2004 novel Peter and the Starcatcher, which was adapted for the stage in 2009, Barry and Peterson sought to adapt the spirit of Barrie’s original play while also commenting on questions about power, imperialism, and abuse. In this production, we have continued this conversation and made new changes to better reflect these difficult questions. As you come with us to Rundoon, we hope you will take this opportunity to reflect on how we can reimagine Neverland.”

While the history behind Peter Pan and his journey from an orphan to a never-aging daredevil are often overlooked, the cast’s performance checked all the boxes: there was music, comedy, heartfelt moments, excitement, and last but not least, an acknowledgment of problematic features of the story that showcased an important level of self-awareness.

Elizabeth Trevathan

Although the play itself was gripping, what made the experience truly unique was watching how much fun the cast was having as they fully embodied roles and helped the story unfold. The orphan trio of Peter (Sam Zelazo), Prentiss (Gray Whitaker-Castaneda), and Ted (Davyd Barchuk) had a playful and competitive dynamic that never ceased to make the audience smile as they were getting themselves into trouble.

The blooming romance between Mrs. Bumbrake (Ellie Murphy) and Alf (Sal Burkhardt) was a hilarious subplot that caused laughter each time the pair graced the stage. Finally, the confident and witty Molly Aster (Val Chafee), proved she was a force to be reckoned with, and it’s hard to imagine a better portrayal of a key character in the story.

The eye-catching costumes and stage features went hand-in-hand with the impressive acting and singing. Backdrops, lighting, decor, and props transitioned beautifully from the different landscapes and scenes. From Molly Aster’s Alice in Wonderland-esque outfit to the dazzling mermaid tails and Black Stache’s trench coat, the clothing and accessories accentuated each character’s vibrant personality and made each member of the cast stand out in their own way.

For these reasons and more, the artistic staff — the lighting, set design, and costume crews — played a crucial role in the play’s success.

Overall, the performance was lively and well-executed. It was clear that a lot of time and effort went into this production, and it truly paid off.