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‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ At The Ahmanson Theatre Review

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Photo by Jenny Anderson and courtesy of Ahmanson Theatre

Photo by Jenny Anderson and courtesy of Ahmanson Theatre

“I’ll tell you a bedtime story; it will be a gift”
Starcatcher in training, Molly Aster

The two most enduring gifts Wendy gave Peter Pan were bedtime stories and a kiss. Playwright, Rick Elice wisely includes both of these treasures in his hilarious imagining of how an enslaved orphan came to be Peter Pan. On a mission to save the world Starcatcher, Molly (Megan Stern) delivers three lost boys from all manner of evil with her stories, her heroism, and to the one nameless, brooding boy, her kiss. Employing no tricks in her comedy, Stern’s gift to us is her martini dry performance.

Having seen Starcatcher last year on Broadway, my husband Thom bubbled, “You’re going to love this” as we took our seats at the Ahmanson Theatre, opening night. With 24 years of marriage between us, he knows me well. I did love it, although not without first having to open my fist and let fly my desire to protect J.M. Barrie’s beloved archetypal Pan from being reduced to nothing more than a bit of light comedy.

For a moment, it was easy to mistake Starcatcher for a mere theatrical romp, but it quickly became clear that Elice has done something more than adapt a children’s book. Drawing from Barrie’s original work, Elice tips his hat to the author, calls to mind the time-tested gems of the story, and engages the imagination of the audience rather than elaborate sets to conjure pirate ships, crocodiles, and the island of Neverland.

Co-Directors Roger Rees and Alex Timbers give their ensemble ample room to dance to the edges of goofiness as they introduce the predecessor to Nana, Mrs. Bumbrake (Benjamin Scrader), her love-struck suitor, Alf (Harter Clingman), good-natured Smee (Luke Smith), and the captain before he got his Hook – Black Stache (John Sanders).

The original Elder White in The Book of Mormon, Schrader, keeps his toe right on the line, delivering one solid laugh after another; Clingman munches on imaginary furniture with great success; Smith is so true to Smee, he seems plucked from some unseen Disney film; and big, brash, and a little naughty, Sanders (direct from Broadway) never shirks from his fabulous Hook. As lost boys Prentiss and Ted, Carl Howell and Ed Tournier seem as though they have been working together for a lifetime, such is their seeming delight with one another and impeccable timing.

Finally, Joey deBettencourt gave us Peter with nuance, sweetness, and boyhood pain. Peter, who for decades has come to us in the pages of books, on stages, screens large and small, and for those who believe, still flies with Tink on the second star to the right.

For tickets and more on the show click here.

-Keri Tombazian, Guest Contributor to 947thewave.com

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