THE BASICS: PETER & THE STARCATCHER: A Grownup’s Prequel to Peter Pan (a 2011 play with lots of singing) by Rick Elice is based on the novel by humorist Dave Barry and thriller/adventure writer Ridley Pearson, with music by Wayne Barker. Directed by Chris Kelly, starring Jacob Albarella, Anthony Alcocer, Bobby Cooke, Steve Copps, Kevin Craig, Philip Farugia, Renee Landrigan, Jordan Levin, Jesse Tiebor, Daniel Torres, Doug Weyand, and Preston D. Williams it opened September 6 and runs through October 8, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:00 p.m., Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays at both 3:30 & 7:30, and Sundays at 2:00. (Note that the Curtain Up! show, September 15, is at 8:00 p.m.) Full service bar with coffee and snacks in a beautiful lounge. MusicalFare Theatre, 4380 Main Street, Amherst (best bet is to approach via Getzville Road). (839-8540). www.musicalfare.com Runtime: Two and a half hours including one intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: This is billed as the prequel to the story of Peter Pan and through song and story we learn: how Peter Pan got his name and his powers of flight, the origin of Tinker Bell, how Peter Pan forged a lasting connection to Wendy’s mother, and the backstories for Captain Hook, Smee, the crocodile, and The Lost Boys. It is non-stop action, gags, outrageous puns, silly skits, fart jokes, gender bending, fabulous costumes, where a dozen actors take on one hundred (100!) different roles. This is not your typical “musical” in that it doesn’t have a set of songs or choruses, but it certainly belongs at MusicalFare.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: First off, true confession. I never really “got” or liked Peter Pan (or The Wizard of Oz either, not that you asked) so I passed up the chance to see this show a few years back at The Shaw Festival. If I didn’t give much of a damn about Peter Pan, why would I want to see a prequel? Well, here are three things I wish I’d known:
- There’s an important little word in the complete title: “grownups.” This is a very smart, fast paced, try-to-keep-up-but-you’re-still-going-to-miss-stuff show.
- It’s based on a book co-authored by humorist Dave Barry who is THE Dave Barry, the really funny guy who wrote for the Miami Herald from 1983 to 2005 and got carried in The Buffalo News. I loved his columns.
- It’s incredibly snappy, high energy, and well-directed as you would expect from Chris Kelly. If you are (as I am) tired of musicals that are past their prime, this could be for you.
At opening night I asked folks who had seen this show either off-Broadway, on Broadway, or at Shawfest to compare and contrast, and they said that what we get at MusicalFare was pretty much standard, although these theater mavens did agree that a Broadway or Shawfest rehearsal budget usually results in a slightly crisper performance.
Having said that, it was apparent that Steve Copps (as the quixotic “Black Stache”) must have been developing his role on his own, long before rehearsals, because his timing was simply stunning, lightning fast changes in persona, where he was 100% in one personality and then, BAM!, 100% into the next. A two-time Artie Award winner, obviously Copps has the chops, but here he outdid himself. If you go only to see “Black Stache,” you will thank me.
Everybody on stage rose to the occasion…
Everybody on stage rose to the occasion (see cast list under BASICS above, they we’re all great) but I must also mention Anthony Alcocer, last year’s Artie Award winner for Outstanding Actor in a play. He plays three roles, but his “Fighting Prawn” was right up there with Copps’ “Black Stache.”
And, especially funny because he usually plays serious guys, Jordan Levin delivered in the gender bending roles of “Mrs. Bumbrake” and later as “Teacher.”
I honestly don’t know how they’re going to sustain the energy this show takes, but another actor who will no doubt need ice packs and ibuprofen is Renee Landrigan as “Molly” (the only actual female in the production) who is up in the air, thrown on the floor, and sliding on her back down the center aisle, all in the name of comedy.
And, finally, as usual, the stage by Chris Schenk is stunning, the lighting very effective (especially the underwater scenes), and without a doubt Kari Drozd and Susan Drozd deserve an “over and above” award for costumes and hair, wigs, and make-up.
Pictured (l to r): Preston D. Williams, Renee Landrigan, Jesse Tiebor, Steve Copps as Ted, Molly, The Boy, Black Stache | Photo by Jesse Sloier
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!