The high seas of the Atlantic and tropical foliage of far-off islands translated beautifully onto Arnold Hall’s main stage last weekend with “Peter and the Starcatcher.” The story is based on the novel carrying the same name by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, but the play is relatively new, having premiered on Broadway in 2012.
Not technically a musical, but a play by Rick Elice and sprinkled with occasional music by Wayne Barker, the show centers around the origins of Peter Pan. This lost, orphaned boy who, for most his life had no real name but plenty of condescending titles, is played by Jaron Carlson, an MFA in Performing Arts candidate from Fairbanks, Alaska, with plenty of purity and spunk.
Directed by Michael Wainstein and music directed by Kevin Wallace, both SCAD professors, the show asked its audience to play pretend from the very first scene. The cast recites the setting and context making it feel like the precursor to a bedtime story, a recurring thematic component in the story.
The dynamics of the cast were also on-point. Hannah Sharp, a second-year Performing Arts major from the United Kingdom, played Molly Aster, the straight woman among a company of orphans, British subjects, seafarers and natives, all engaging and “far-off” in their own rights. Sharp was one of two interchangeable actresses in this production, the other being April Consalo, a third-year Film and Television major from Vero Beach, Florida, who was Teacher in Act 2 during Saturday night’s performance.
Elice’s script grounds its believability in historically accurate costumes (excellently executed by John-Ross Winter, a fourth-year Production Design major from Ocean View, Delaware) and timeline contexts. The mere mention of Queen Victoria prompted an immediate, “God save her,” from the ensemble.
The show’s vitality and enjoyment derived from the snip bits of contemporary commentary, notably when Loïc Suberville’s Black Stache (Captain Hook’s precursor) debated with Molly saying, “And I bet your milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.” Suberville’s snappy delivery matched the story’s playful rhythm.
School of Entertainment Arts always presents shows with amazing production value, and “Starcatcher” was no exception. Scenic designer, third-year production design major from Malaysia, Enna Chow, set frames the two acts beautifully, establishing that signature sense of wonder necessary for any Peter Pan narrative. Spectacularly themed lighting and sound were consistent (save for a brief mic mishap in Scene 2) and clear throughout the roughly two-and-a-half hour run time.