LOGAN — Peter and the Starcatcher is a whimsical prequel to Peter Pan written by Rick Elice with music by Wayne Barker. Based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, the play debuted on Broadway in 2012. The Lyric Repertory Company’s current production was directed by Quinn Mattfeld, with excellent music direction by Trent Dahlin. Peter and the Starcatcher has become popular in recent years in the Utah theatre community, and I am always interested in seeing how different theatrical organizations bring the story to life.
The first thing I noticed about the Lyric production was the set design by Jon Savage and the amazing props (designed by propmaster Robin Perry). Both elements added to the whimsical feel of this show (which is almost a parody). I especially loved the ships, a clever rendition of a cat, and the best use of a lawn rake that I have ever seen. Add to that the set pieces designed to move and adjust to different locations, and the Lyric has a production that brings the audience into a transformed world.
Costume design by Mandolynn Browning was also a highlight of the evening. From pirates to captains and Englishmen, to mermaids and people in the jungle, it is evident that Browning was full of imagination and creativity when designing the play. I found the hats especially delightful, as well as the versatility in costuming because several cast members played different parts requiring quick changes.
The players were a strong group who, as a whole, excelled at performing the ensemble choreography by Stephanie R. White and fight choreography by Wyn Moreno, both of which added to the ambience. There were a few standouts in the cast, as well as a couple of actors that were a bit too understated.
Matt Mueller masterfully brought to life the character of Black Stache, and Mueller’s comedic timing and presence stole the stage every time he walked on it. For example, at the beginning of the second act, Mueller broke the fourth wall as some audience members returned to their seats well after the lights had dimmed, and the result had the audience laughing heartily. Toby Tropper played Mrs. Bumbrake in the best portrayal of the character (by far) that I have seen. His take on a proper British lady was perfect, and the physical comedy he employed was outstanding. Richie Call as Smee was enjoyable, but I would have liked to see him play the role more absentmindedly.
Tristan Berg not only excelled at the boy who becomes Peter, but he looked the part, too. His face held such a sincerity when he claims that he just wants to be a boy for a while, that I could tell it is the true desire he is trying to express. Molly Aster (played by Sceri Sioux Ivers) is the hero of the show, and one that is increasingly important as young girls look for heroes to emulate. I enjoyed Ivers’s performance, but found some of it lacking. She played the character with good animation and excitement, but there seemed to be few deeper emotions in the character, which made it harder to sympathize for Molly at the end when the emotional stakes are much higher for her.
The best part of the evening had to be the live music played by the masterful Trent Dahlin. His command of the piano was outstanding and added to that the different props and instruments he used for sound effects truly added to the evening. While many productions of Peter and the Starcatcher have chosen to use pre-recorded music, incorporating live music into the production helped the show feel more intimate and allowed for more improvisation. Additional music such as a violin was provided by various cast members, and that also elevated the quality of the production.
I have had many people tell me they are not sure they understand Peter and the Starcatcher, which makes them dislike the show. I think that Lyric’s production is a great one to introduce the play to people, because the production has the perfect balance between silliness and story. Mattfeld has allowed the audience to adjust to the whimsy and fun of the show, while still bringing out the strong and thought provoking parts of the story.
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