"Peter and the Starcatcher" spreads its Starstuff all around Hubbard Hall
CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. — Peter Pan origin stories have become somewhat commonplace over the past few years. Among the more imaginative is the family friendly "Peter and the Starcatcher," a musical based upon a 2006 novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson that is being given an imaginatively staged, robustly played production at Hubbard Hall.
Although it is billed as a musical, "Peter and the Starcatcher" is more a play with accompanying music that often serves as sound effect, a bit of spoken verse and, yes, a some songs; even a production number or two.
A product of the fertile imaginations of writer Rick Elice and composer Wayne Barker, "Peter and the Starcatcher" enjoyed some success in New York, after its world premiere at La Jolla Playhouse in southern California, Off-Broadway in 2011, on Broadway in 2012 and Off-Broadway again in 2013.
For his production at Hubbard Hall's versatile performance space in its venerable main building, director David Snider has mounted his production entirely on the building's rarely used proscenium stage, a configuration that, at least from an acoustical standpoint, doesn't work to the advantage of his enthusiastic, energetic cast.
For one thing, the seemingly cavernous distance between the stage and the first row of seating imposes a playing style that is broader, more pumped up than this piece requires. My guess is that Snider was looking to catch something of the feel of London theaters in the Victorian age. But this is a show about breaking boundaries; about storytelling that fully engages its audience.
In addition, the hall's echoing acoustics swallow some of the dialogue. Some plot developments and the clever subtleties in Elice's script — outrageous but knowing puns, malapropisms, clever wordplay, among them — are lost. So are details of a convoluted plot that centers around orphaned boys sold into slavery; two ships — the old, weather-beaten Neverland, captained by the nasty, snarling Bill Slank (Jack Boggan), and the fleet Wasp; two identical crates, one of them carrying a precious cargo of Starstuff; a father, Lord Aster (Kristoffer Ross), and his precocious daughter, Molly (Kyra Fitzgerald), who, at times of peril, communicate with each other in the language of Dodo; an amulet with special qualities; a lost boy, Peter (Christiana Roewer), who's lived a hard-knock life; and a swaggering, hirsute, malaprop-spouting pirate king, Black Stache (Erin Ouellette), who is after the treasure he believes is in one of those crates and will stop at nothing to get it.
This inventively conceived production is filled with a generally captivating sense of children at play — kids of varying ages creating a rich world of fantasy and storytelling out of almost nothing; playing parts, irrespective of gender, and turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. Snider's designers — Andrea Nife, sets; Derek Van Heel, lighting; and Amanda Charlebois, costumes — take over from there.
Movement also is critical. Snider and choreographer Darcy May use their actors in wonderfully inventive ways, as if all this were improvised on the spot.
Beneath all this play and playfulness is an inviting story that talks about imagination, courage, dreams, language, the ways in which we communicate and hold, even across long distances and absence, the bonds that connect us to one another.
Snider's production is fueled in no small measure by Fitzgerald's smart, resourceful, assertive, preternaturally mature Molly and Ouellette's Black Stache, a bold, hearty performance that goes to the boundaries with audacious, no-holds-barred self-assurance. Ouellette takes the measure, and then some, of this larger-than-life character, keenly aware of just how far she can and should go, all the while having a grand old time getting there. So do we.
What: "Peter and the Starcatcher." Written by Rick Elice. Music by Wayne Barker. Directed by David Snider; music direction, Richard Cherry; choreography, Darcy May
With (partial): Christiana Roewer, Kyra Fitzgerald, Erin Ouellette, Jack Boggan, Kristoffer Ross, Catherine Seely
Who: Hubbard Hall Projects — Theater
Where: Hubbard Hall Center for the Arts and Education, 25 E. Main St., Cambridge, N.Y.
When: Through Oct. 23. Evenings — Friday and Saturday at 7:30. Matinees — Saturday and Sunday at 2
Running time: 2 hours 4 minutes — including one intermission
Tickets: $25; students $10
How: (518) 677-2495; hubbardhall.org
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