There are often times that rating a play becomes a difficult task indeed. Tonight’s opening of “Peter and the StarCatcher” is just one of those “times”. While the Midwest premiere at Drury Lane Oakbrook is far better than the original Broadway In Chicago touring company that we saw, with a cast that truly makes this show worth the drive, it is the play itself that brings the rating down from Highly Recommended **** to that which I have posted. This show is fun, and it really shows its true colors in the second act. It is NOT a musical, but a play with music. The play is written by Rick Elice and is based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, with music by Wayne Barker and it is a “prequel” that tells us a great deal about one of literature’s most famous characters, “Peter Pan”!
Directed by William Osetek, with choreography by Rhett Guter and music direction by Ben Johnson (also at the keyboards, and conducting three talented musicians), we spend a great deal of time gathering information in the first act, which tends to take some of the spunkiness away from the audience. An hour plus of “exposition” is far too much story telling and not enough fun for the audiences (and the players). Osetek has assembled a great cast, many of whom take on many roles as they go from character to character allowing us to learn about the boy who never wanted to grow up, called “Boy”( a divine performance by newcomer Caleb Donahoe) and his two best buds, AKA the “lost boys”, Ted(Zack Colonna) and Prentiss (deftly handled by Aaron Kirby). Their lives are changed by Molly (a glorious performance by Emma Rosenthal, who just keeps impressing me with her talents) and the many characters that she brings into their lives as they travel on this fantastical journey and bring us the answers of how Peter Pan became the folk hero we know.
Sitting in tonight’s audience were two very proud parents that are known when it comes to area theaters (and now Broadway as well), the Mueller’s. Their two sons are in this production, appearing together for the first time on a major stage, Andrew playing 4 or 5 roles to perfection and Matt as the villainous Black Stache (better known as Captain Hook for those who know the story). He is wonderful and his Act Two scene where he becomes all hands, so to speak, deserves the ovations that the opening night audience gave him. Watching him develop his character is worth the price of the ticket alone. No wonder the Mueller’s were all smiles! But there is so much more. As I said this is a divine cast. Comedy expert Jeff Dumas is the perfect Smee and Rod Thomas once again shows just how versatile he is with his portrayal of Lord Aster. The other cast members are as follows: Brandon Springman, Jake Klinkhammer and John Keating. They fill the stage with what appears to be a hundred actors!
In this show, we meet characters who are zany and inane. We meet the crocodile and learn how he got the taste of Stache/Hook. We learn about the lost boys and Peter’s desire to stay a boy and we learn about the future for Molly and those who will follow her in years to come. We even meet a little light that we know will become “Tinker Bell” to us. Is this a show that you will talk about with love and adoration? Is this a family pleaser? I guess the best way to answer these questions is to say that you will be entertained and you will find yourselves stepping away from the world of everyday to a fantasy land for a short span of time, and isn’t that why we attend the theater? I have a feeling that someone will, someday, shorten this show to 90 minutes with no intermission and have a huge hit. Meanwhile this smart version of “Peter and the Starcatcher” will continue at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook thru October 18th with performances as follows: