The Tony Award-winning play “Peter and the Starcatcher” by Rick Elice has landed on the Children’s Theatre of Annapolis stage like a huge blender set on high. Met at first with the calmness of a fixed set and curtain-less stage, the audience may not be prepared for the frenetic few hours that is about to overtake them. This play is both extra extremely silly and very clever, but mostly clever—no, mostly silly and clever.
The silly part is obvious immediately. The clever reveals itself throughout the play, starting with the characters telling the audience that they are telling the story and to suspend belief. The set, and sometimes props, are seemingly built of flotsam washed up on stage from the sea. A flapping yellow rubber glove on the hand of a cast member becomes the future Tinkerbell, the crocodile that bedevils Hook starts out as a set of round blow-up floats. Cast members double as doors and set pieces, and in a late scene the cast runs down a mountain and through a jungle without moving a foot.
This tight, well-timed production is constantly surprising, from the unexpected opening numbers to the last ensemble lift.
The play is a prequel to “Peter Pan” giving each character a backstory. All the favorites are back, led by the ridiculous and supercilious Black Stache, who is destined to become Hook after accidentally chopping off his own hand. Wonderfully played by Justin Porath, Stache saunters and shimmies around the stage with such evil glee that one would be forgiven for rooting for him. Molly, a competitive and lovable little know-it-all played by Lia Klug, is the future Mrs. Darling who sets Peter on his path to recover his lost childhood.
Peter, played memorably by Finn Hintermister, almost folds inside out with sadness and is the one spot of reality in the play. He brings the audience out of their giggling with each utterance about his desperate past. He has been so mistreated in his 13 years that he has never seen the sun, and has never even had a name. He keeps reminding us that there is something else going on here besides merriment, and gives purpose to the play.
The ensemble cast has so many bright spots that there are almost too many to mention. There is the ridiculously obedient Smee (Teaghan McLaughlin), who whacks himself in the head so Stache doesn’t have to, and is in desperate need of a dentist. The side story of Mrs. Bumbrake and Alf (Connor Schwab and Helena Gray), prove that opposites attract in the most absurd way. Fighting Prawn (Olivia Hurd), Lord Leonard Aster (Madeleine Prost), and Bill Slake (Destiny Felder) are also standouts in their silly roles. Ted and Prentiss (Noah McCandless and Ryan McCandless), the other two orphans accompanying Peter on his journey to find himself, are sufficiently lost on stage that they could be nothing other than future Lost Boys.
First-time director Allyson Tierney, who has been a production director at CTA for some time, shows she is a pro. This tight, well-timed production is constantly surprising, from the unexpected opening numbers to the last ensemble lift.
Choreographer Catherine Weiss and lift choreographer Brandon Glass have a tall order to keep the action spinning on stage when the entire cast is present for almost every scene. Music Director Michelle Bruno does a great job with her large ensemble numbers (music by Wayne Barker). Costumer Tracy Rinehart has beautifully outfit the cast several times over with appropriately crazy costumes, often made of pieces of shiny fabric, fish tails, or netting.
There is something wonderful about a high-quality production with children, as is usual fare at CTA. Our children relate to the characters and we are all reminded of our youth, of our children growing up, and the innocence we have long since lost. “Peter and the Starcatcher” is the perfect play for CTA for that very reason. We long to go with Peter on his journey to find his lost childhood, if only for one night. Thank you CTA. With 64 years under your belt, you are still doing it right.
Running time: Approximately two hours and15 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
“Peter and the Starcatcher” runs through February 19, 2023 at the Children’s Theatre of Annapolis, 1661 Bay Head Road, Annapolis, MD 21409. For more information and tickets, call 410-757-2281 or click here. For more information on upcoming productions and classes, please call 410-757-2281 or go online. Masks are optional.