PERRY — I must confess that I am a sucker for the Disney feeling of childlike wonder found in classic works. These stories provide mercurial mix of whimsy and nostalgia that gets me every time. Peter and the Starcatcher at the Heritage Theatre is steeped in that magical Disney brew that can entertain audience members, both young and old. With solid performances, imaginative storytelling, and direction, Peter and the Starcatcher is an exceptional choice for families looking for an excellent night out together.

Directed and choreographed by Alyn Bone, this production transports viewers to a world of pirates, lost boys, and magical starstuff. The play was adapted for the stage in 2009 by Rick Elice with music by Wayne Barker. It is based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson commissioned by Disney. It serves as a prequel to J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan by revealing the origins of Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and Neverland.

The play opens aboard a pair of ships named “Neverland” and “Wasp”. Young Molly Aster (Symera Miller) and her nanny, Mrs. Bumbrake (Jana Wilhite) are leaving England on The Neverland with a group of orphans. Molly’s father, Lord Aster (Brandon Bowen) is aboard the much faster ship, the Wasp, on a mission from Her Majesty to protect a trunk filled with precious starstuff. This magical substance grants mysterious and extraordinary powers, which is why it must be kept out of the hands of villains, like the infamous Black Stache the Pirate until he manages to hijack the Wasp.

The standout performance of the night must be given to the comedic brilliance of Adam Livingston as the dastardly Black Stache. With his perfectly waxed whisker wig, he delivers a performance that is hilariously over-the-top in exactly the right way. Livingston’s ability to switch from bumbling fool to threatening villain adds layers to Black Stache. His character was much more than a pirate with a lip toupee but fleshed out as a character to have delightful diction, timing, mannerisms, and reactions to the other actors besides his nose neighbor. His interactions with his sidekick Smee (Carson Bateman) provide some memorable moments.

Miller’s performance as Molly Aster brings a perfect blend of fierce determination and femininity to the role, embodying a young girl wise beyond her years. Miller’s commanding presence and nuanced performance capture Molly’s courage and resourcefulness, making her a compelling protagonist. Her chemistry with the orphans is warm and genuine, particularly with the boy who will become Peter.

Peter, portrayed by the talented Cormick Bone, evolves throughout the play, showing Peter’s transformation from a beaten and dejected nameless orphan to the legendary Peter Pan. Bone’s earnest performance brings a moving authenticity to Peter as he arcs the character through moments of self-doubt and courage.

The ensemble cast cover a myriad of characters throughout the show, including sailors, pirates, and mermaids. The actors demonstrate versatility as they give characters ranges of personalities and accents which varies the storytelling. Under Bone’s direction, the pacing is excellent, but there was one technical moment that fell flat. At two points a character is supposed to fly or hover a few inches off the ground. The method used was so subtle that I wasn’t sure what was happening at first and made the moment underwhelming. There are also quite a few places where the group is narrating action, one after another where the pacing got off. But overall, the direction of the script really shines. The show doesn’t fit in standard molds. I wouldn’t call it children’s theatre, but my nine-year-old understood and enjoyed the show immensely. It is certainly a comedy, but it is also a satire, farce, and a musical. It certainly isn’t a standard Disney musical, but the musical numbers all sound very nice. The mermaid number is particularly fabulous, both vocally and comedically.

The costumes for the mermaids, designed by Amber Beecher and Jana Wilhite, were some of my favorites. As a nonprofit organization producing community theatre, the budgets can be restrictive for costuming, especially for period pieces. Most of the costume pieces are fine for their purpose, however, the mermaid costumes were so creative and comical that besides the fact that most of the mermaids were being portrayed by mermen, it was such a funny scene because of the creative budget-friendly costumes. Each mermaid has a tale made from a simple skirt tied to their front with an iridescent paper fan for a fin. Then each top was covered with a skin-colored long-sleeve shirt sporting a coordinating bikini top with random items on them, rather than the standard sea shells. I noticed funnels, bubble sticks, strainers, windmills, and other random items. The whole visual was so shockingly funny it took a moment to focus on their lovely singing and witty lyrics. I also loved Molly’s costume in blues which gives off Wendy vibes while Peter’s costume progresses along with his character as he sheds layers and becomes the flying hero in green.

The production has a live pianist, Kirsten Shirley and percussion by MaGuire Sewell that brings the sound to life to complement the visual elements. The well-timed live musical cues and background scores enhance the mood of each scene and give an energy that can’t be matched with a track.

Those of us who adore classic Disney storytelling are most drawn in by its ability to appeal to audiences of all ages. The story is laced with familiar characters that children can quickly identify, like the future Captain Hook and his famous flavor saver, as they enjoy the physical comedy and magical elements. However the new storyline, deep themes, and witty humor kept me laughing and engaged throughout. It is hard to find theatre that is more family-friendly and entertaining.

Peter and the Starcatcher plays at the Heritage Theatre (2505 South Highway 89, Perry) on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30pm from  June 8th– 29th, 2024 with matinees on June 15th & 22nd  at 2 PM.  Tickets are $10-16. For more information, visit