Weekend Highlights

Published October 31, 2013
Going Places

A Parent’s Review: Peter and the Starcatcher

by Lynn Schnaiberg

First, a word of warning: Be prepared to laugh. A lot.

Adapted from the best-selling 2004 children’s book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Starcatcher offers the backstory to how a nameless, angsty orphan becomes the immortal Peter Pan (originally created in the early 20th century by writer J.M. Barrie). Reading the book is definitely not a prerequisite to enjoy the show: My 10-year-old daughter had started the novel but not finished it and laughed to the verge of tears several times during the performance.

In a nutshell, the Boy (Peter) and two fellow orphans are sold off by their cruel orphanage overseer. Thrown into the hold of a ship (the Neverland) captained by the evil Slank, they’re bound for the remote kingdom of Rundoon where they think they will serve as special assistants to the king, but are in fact destined to become crocodile food.

Meantime, on order of Queen Elizabeth, the British stalwart Lord Aster is sent on a voyage to Rundoon to destroy "starstuff" on the Wasp, a fast ship. Lord Aster sends his daughter, Molly, and her hilarious nanny, Mrs. Bumbrake (played by a man), on the Neverland because he believes it is a safer boat to reach Rundoon. Lord Aster’s boat is taken over by a band of pirates led by the notorious Black Stache (who, naturally, sports a comical black moustache), who decides Peter will be his perfect foe.

Molly befriends Peter and his friends on the boat, in the process becoming a mother figure who teaches them lessons in leadership and caring. In the end, it is up to Molly and the "Lost Boys" to keep the magical starstuff out of the hands of evil powers. We also find out Molly grows up to have a daughter named Wendy. (Sound familiar?)

The stripped-down set and staging in this Tony Award-winning show is incredibly inventive (a rope becomes a stormy sea in one moment, the prow of a boat in another) utilizing all manner of recycled materials (keep your eyes peeled for the hilarious vegetable steamers adorning Black Stache’s bosom when he becomes a mermaid). The dozen actors play more than 100 characters in the show; John Sanders as the malapropism-spouting Black Stache is especially hilarious (“splitting rabbits” instead of “splitting hairs,”; “You’ve made your bed, Pan.” Get it?). He turns three words (“oh my God”) into a gut-splitting scene that has to be seen to be believed.  

The play is billed as suitable for younger audiences but “most enjoyable” for children ages 10 and up; that felt right, though we saw plenty of kids who were clearly younger than age 10. Many jokes will go right over younger kids’ heads (I caught nods to Ayn Rand and Groucho Marx). But there’s lots of visual humor. And fart and poop jokes abound. As far as scary or potentially upsetting content, Peter is whipped in one scene by the orphanage director. And of course, the whole subject of cruelty to children (and how someone becomes an orphan) is in the background, but it’s not overt. Overall, the madcap show is a real romp.

Logistics: No booster seats for kids (my daughter and I swapped seats so she could see over adult heads and balled up our coats to prop her up a bit). Seats are folding chairs, but that’s not as uncomfortable as it sounds as they’re well padded (apparently new seats are coming soon). Bathrooms are tiny and predictably crowded. Make a dash at intermission to make sure you and the kids can make it through the second half. The show started late for the 8 p.m. show we attended; running time is about two hours and 20 minutes with one intermission.

Be sure to check out the found object artwork in the lobby made by kid artists at Coyote Central. Ditto the stories submitted by eight- to 18-year-olds in Seattle Public Schools, asked to write a prequel to their favorite book.

Snacks on offer include popcorn, chips, mixed nuts, jumbo Dahlia Bakery cookies and gummy bears. Adults can indulge in the “Neverland,” a mix of vodka, apple pucker and cherry or “The Wasp,” with spiced rum and ginger ale.

Photo credits: The Peter and the Starcatcher Tour Company, and Joey deBettencourt and Megan Stern; photos by Jenny Anderson.


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If You Go...

Where: The Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., Seattle.

When: Through Nov. 3; Fri., Nov. 1 at 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 2 at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 3 at 1 and 6:30 p.m. 

Admission: Tickets run $22.50 - $57.50. Student/educator rush tickets available: One $20 ticket per school I.D. one hour prior to curtain, cash only, all performances. As well, there is a two-for-one Saturday "Kid's Day Matinee" discount with passcode "kids" on Nov. 2. 

Contact: 877-784-4849; www.stgpresents.org.