By Barry Reszel
If most can agree the definition of “lite” is a product containing less of an ingredient than another product of its same kind, then this moniker is fair: Peter and the Startcatcher is musical theatre lite.
Fans of this site might find that a tad disappointing.
But make no mistake, Drury Lane Theatre’s current production of the 2012 five-time Tony winner, billed as a musical play for its three songs by Wayne Barker, is terrific, professional, prime time theatre. The show is just 10-12 songs from being a full-fledged musical.
This grownup’s prequel to Peter Pan, based on the best-selling novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson answers the century-old question: How did J.M. Barrie‘s Peter Pan become the boy who never grew up?
The origin story of one of popular culture’s most beloved characters follows the shared adventure of “Boy” and his adventurous 13-year-old friend Molly, a Starcatcher apprentice separated from her father, as they take to the high seas and work to overcome Black Stache and his band of pirates to keep the world safe from evil.
Along the way, the audience learns that a Starcatcher is an individual appointed by her majesty, the Queen of England, (God, save her) to dispose of starstuff so people with evil intentions are unable to use it—starstuff being the dust that falls from shooting stars and possessing incredibly magical properties.
Presented in a storytelling theatrical approach, whereby the storytellers assume various characters, Peter and the Starcatcher is truly an ensemble-requiring production. Nods to this team of fantastic actors: Zack Colonna, Jeff Dumas, Rhett Guter (who is also the show’s choreographer), John Keating, Aaron Kirby, Jake Klinkhammer, Andrew Mueller, Brandon Springman and Rod Thomas.
That said, Emma Rosenthal as Molly particularly shines as the tough Starcatcher-in-training with just enough femininity to keep the burgeoning young love flame burning. Caleb Donohoe is a dashing and sincere as the boy who becomes Peter Pan; his performance allows patrons to feel the legitimate push and pull between never growing up and having to grow up, thereby allowing all in the audience to relive their adolescences again, if only (thankfully) for a short while.
Making the absolute most out of one of the best comic stage roles imaginable is Matt Mueller. His anachronism-dropping, malaprop-laden Black Stache, the melodramatic pirate villain who ultimately becomes Captain Hook, is truly the very model of a modern Major-General. If only he had a song.
Therein lies the real rub with Peter and the Starcatcher. It is the perfect book (by Rick Elice) to be made into a musical. Except that it’s not.
The hilarious second act opening, “The Mermaid Song,” one of the show’s unquestioned highlights, is but a tease to musical theatre lovers. And, for this reviewer, the tease draws focus to what this show could be, rather than what it is.
But what it is still makes for a terrific night of live entertainment. Patrons are advised to check it out.
“Peter and the Starcatcher” runs through October 18 at the Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. Parking is complimentary. Information and tickets ($40-$60 with additional dinner packages and senior and student discounts for some shows) are available online here or by phone (630) 530-0111.