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PETER PAN CATCHES STARDUST

AND OUR IMAGINATION

By Iride Aparicio

Photos by: Kevin Berne

ADRIENNE WALTERS as the starcatcher
ADRIENNE WALTERS as the starcatcher

Palo Alto, CA –  Peter Pan returns to the stage during the Holidays in a well-acted, music-filled energetic adventure presented by Theatre Works at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. But  in PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, as his new play is called, the story retrogresses the audience all the way back to the past of the mischievous, independent boy, who never grew up. 

Peter came to life once upon a time in the pages of The Little White Bird, a novel written for adults by J.M. BARRIE, in the year l902. It was when the book first appeared in print, that we heard, for the first time, about this fictitious character by the name of Peter Pan. BARRIE named his character  Peter for another little boy, Peter Llewelyn Davis, one of the several children of the Llewelyn Davis family, that he told his stories after he wrote them. He used Pan, as his character’s last name, inspired by the  mischievous god Pan, the wild companion of Nymphs in Greek Mythology.  

Two years later, on January 27, l904, the York Theatre in London announced the premiere of an original play, based on “Peter and Wendy” another book written by BARRIE in  l91I. In this play, Peter, who the day before had lost his shadow inside the nursery room of the  Darling’s home, where he flew in through and open window to hear the stories Mrs. Darling reads to her children at bedtime, returns to look for it, and is discovered by Wendy, the Darling’s older daughter. After Wendy attaches Peter’s shadow to his body, Peter teaches the children how to fly by sprinkling them with the “magic dust” of Tinker Bell, and with the three children leave the house through the window, and flying like birds, arrive in  “Never Land,” Peter’s home, an island  populated by  mermaids, Lost Children, Indians, pirates and a mean crocodile who, ticks after eating a clock, enjoying an adventure, that for many years, had delighted children and adults.

.TIM HOMSLEY as Peter Pan in “Peter and the Starcatcher”
  TIM HOMSLEY as Peter Pan in “Peter and the Starcatcher”

This is the  Peter that most of us are familiar with, so familiar, that many of us never wondered, how did Peter Pan learn to fly? 

The answer to this question is given  by DAVE BARRY and RIDLEY PEARSON in their book  Peter and the Starcatchers, published by Hyperion Books for children in 2004. The writers even  add more information about Peter's background, in other books: Peter and the Shadow thieves (2006) Peter and the Secret of Rundoon (2007) Peter and the Sword of Mercy (2009) and The Bridge to Neverland (September 2011). Each book giving the readers snippets of Peter’s past as they imagined happened.

Based on Peter and the starcatchers, the first one of the stories,  DAVE BARRY & RIDLEY PEARSON  wrote a play: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (instead of star catchers)  in  2009, with music by WAYNE BARKER. The play debuted at La Jolla Playhouse as part of an arrangement with Disney Theatrical, was re-staged off-Broadway,  and opened on Broadway on April 15, 2012. where it was the winner of five Tonys.

Now, PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, presented by Theatre Works, is playing in Palo Alto. It opened to the press on December 13th, and the only world to describe it, is “dynamic." PETER AND THE STARCATCHER progresses as the speed of  a movie, changing scenes rapidly, changing costumes, changing places.  There is so much fast action packed in this play that it loses the heart of “PETER PAN” the first one.

The Cast of PETER  AND THE STARCATCHER with Darren Bridgett and Adrienne Walters as Lord Aster in naval uniform  and Molly (Center)
The Cast of PETER  AND THE STARCATCHER with Darren Bridgett and Adrienne Walters as Lord Aster in naval uniform  and Molly (Center)

The play starts on the ship “Neverland” deck,  with Lord Aster DARREN BRIDGET (in red/blue naval uniform) telling his daughter Molly (ADRIENNE WALTERS) that for her safety, she will sail to England in this ship “with Mrs. Brumbrake,(RON CAMPBELL) her nanny, (first kneeling on the left side on the photo) The ship is carrying on board the trunk with the English Crown’s  most valuable objects. Lord Aster, tells her that he will sail in another ship. carrying an exact replica of trunk, but that this “decoy” trunk is  filled with sand.  The purpose, of the "decoy" is to  deceive the pirates, which may attack his ship to try to steal the Crown’s Treasures, but ignore the "Neverland."  In what may sound to us  like a “touch of Hi-tech” Lord Aster also tells his

 L-r SUZANNE GRODNER & PATRICK KELLY JONES
L-r SUZANNE GRODNER & PATRICK KELLY JONES

daughter that while in different ships, if he or she are in danger, they will be able to “communicate” with each other speaking a language only they know, intelligible to everyone else, on the jewels he carries with him and Molly carries on a chain hanging from her neck, that lights, when “called.”

Traveling in the ship, Molly meets a group of boys, one of them a very shy boy without a name, that she names Peter, (A strong name in her opinion) after a conversation in which she learns that the boy is an orphan who never knew his mother. On her part, she reveals to him that she is a Starcatcher apprentice, which means that she catches stars.

When the action starts, shortly after that conversation, things start happening very fast. The action gets frantic,  so frantic that at times  the audience loses the original story because it brakes the bond developing between Peter and Molly.

 The “Natives” performing  a native dance  
The “Natives” performing  a native dance

The landing of the survivors on the island, for instance, with everybody walking over and over around it, ends up looking silly. And the survivors’ encounter with the “Natives” completely lacks realism. Maybe it is the dialogue that make us laugh even when the “Natives” are threatening Peter, Molly and the children to death and are trying to kill them. Because of the beautiful costumes, the  scene  is colorful, and  funny, specially  the drag dance. but as an “adventure” the scene does not move the plot and makes us lose the thread  of  the serious story.

At the end, of the play, however, when things get finally together and most of all the problems are solved, PETER AND THE STARCATCHER gets tender. We have seen Peter and Molly, fighting,  Molly being  kidnapped, the sinking of their ship, their battles with the pirates, Peter drowning in the ocean, both threatened by "The Natives" and now the journey is over.  It is the time for Peter and Molly to decide what to do with each other: to remain together or  to say goodbye.

As the play director,  Robert Kelly managed to get genuine performances from each one of his actors.  As Molly, WALTERS went masterfully, through each one of her many emotions, showing us her courage, at times, and at other times her fears. Her women’s guts, and her  young girl’s vulnerability. Her love and her magic inside, and her outside magic as a star catcher.

As “Boy, ” in his demeanor, HOMSLEY  looked his role as   “lost boy” we saw his despair, his doubts. his fear of falling in love, and his change in attitude at the end after learning what he will be able to accomplish in the future, because he fell on the waters of  “The Golden Lake.”

Another excellent performance on opening night was the acting of DARREN BRIDGETT in his role as Lord Aston. His demeanor showed both: His class as an English Lord and as the Captain of an English ship, and  his concern and tenderness as a father towards his daughter Molly.   

As the pirates, both  Black Stache (KELLY)  played his role with gusto. GRODNER was a convincing Smee, and all the others who acted with energy in a their demanding roles. As the “lost children” each one of the actors represented his particular role well.

R- MICHAEL GENE SULLIVAN as “Fighting Prawn” and the Lost boys 
R- MICHAEL GENE SULLIVAN as “Fighting Prawn” and the Lost boys

For those interested in learning more about Peter Pan, including the reason why he flies, PETER AND THE STARCATCHER will provide the answers in an enjoyable evening with music, songs, dances, plenty of action and star dust magic.

For Ticket and information the public may call (650) 463-1960 or visit theatreworks.org