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THEATRE JACKSONVILLE REVIEW
A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW BY DICK KEREKES
The beloved Theatre Jacksonville and The Delores Barr Weaver Forever Fund opened its first play of 2017 with an exciting and daring production of the Tony Award winning “Peter and the Starcatcher”. It will be on stage at 2032 San Marco Ave in Jacksonville through January 29th. Call 396-4425 for ticket information.
The story of Peter Pan is a well known children’s classic by M. Barrie that debuted as a play in 1904 on the London stage. It was published as a novel in 1911 and many adaptations have followed including multiple films, television productions and plays, notably an animated 1953 Disney film and a 1954 Broadway musical starring Mary Martin.
Ever ponder how Peter Pan wound up in Neverland? How Captain Hook became Peter’s enemy? In 2004 Pulitzer Prize winning author and humorist Dave Barry and novelist Ridley Pearson wrote the novel that takes us back to Peter’s life before the Lost Boys and before he flew through that London window while looking for his shadow. Playwright Rick Elice adapted the novel for the stage and Wayne Barker added some music and songs and a unique play was born and became a smash hit on Broadway. It took THREE years of rehearsal before it opened for the public.
Why has Starcatcher become such a big hit? It showcases a style of theatre storytelling that is not done very often. No fancy sets, just portion of a sailing ship from the l800s, ladders, ropes riggings, two wooden chests on wheels and twelve very talented actors. They tell the intriguing story with verbal and physical humor. Though technically this is not a musical but a play some music, the cast displays excellent voices under the guidance of musical director Erin Barnes who also played the piano from just off the stage. Act one has five short songs, while Act Two opens with the eleven men in the cast singing and dancing while dressed in drag as mermaids. Can’t remember the words they sang, much too busy laughing.
What makes this show different from others is the use of the magic of imagination. Their story uses interesting props, like a stuffed white cat, a large crocodile (which defies description), wildly exaggerated gestures, witty quips and athletic stunts. The audience was at first confused by this style but soon caught on and immersed themselves in the exciting unfolding action.
The story briefly goes like this. An orphaned and homeless young teenager known only as Boy becomes Peter Pan (Ron Shreve in his excellent Theatre Jacksonville debut). Before this transition, we are taken on an ocean voyage on a ship carrying treasures and we experienced an interesting shipwreck and an encounter with colorful island natives.
We are introduced to many interesting characters, like the Lost Boys (Malik Bilbrew as Ted & Jordon Born as Prentiss), the very spirited fourteen year old Molly played by Taylor Kearschner, a wonderful new addition to the local theatre scene (straight from graduating from the University of Southern Indiana). Then there is the Black Stache, the pirate dude destined to become Captain Hook. The mustached caricature by Al Emerick, is fabulous and a tour de force performance for him. Emerick is joined by equally funny Jeffery Rommel his rubber face sidekick Smee.
Another tag team performance that was a crowd favorite was between the crude and rude Alf played to perfection by Jason Collins and the object of his strange affections was Mrs. Brumbake with award winning actor Daniel Austin running around in a hooped skirt (except for the brief time “She” is a mermaid).
Rounding out this amazing cast is Paul Jason Baker, in several roles, the most dramatic as the chief of the natives. Rich Pintello is Captain Bill Shank and we recently saw him in the local production of “Hot L Baltimore”. Bill White is very believable as Lord Leonard Aster, father of Molly.
Kudos to Director Roxanne Lewis for her insightful direction and choreography. The script provided for this show has no stage directions, so everything you see on that stage is from the creative mind of the director working with this very intelligent cast.
Take a trip back to the 1800’s and sail the seas with Peter and the gang. You may have noticed we omitted many the surprises in this show, like how Capt Hook lost his hand, or Peter learned to fly. We will let you discover that for yourselves. Take the kids, some of the humor may be over their heads but they will love the physical action.
The outstanding Production Team for Peter and the Starcatcher included: Tim Watson (Technical director & Scenic and Lighting Design), Brady Corum (Assistant Technical Director), Kimberly Burns (Costume Design) Felicia Lawrence (Assistant Costume Design), Jo Scherf (Graphic Design), Katie McCloskey (Stage Manager), Kayla Fender (Assistant Stage Manager) , Katie McCloskey, Ron Shreve, Michelle Simkulet, Tim Watson (Properties) Mark Rubens (Light Board Operator), Ron Haynes (Sound Board Operator & Follow Spot Operator) Steve Birthisel (Percussionist).