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Tongue-in-cheek play provides theater magic

‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ delights audiences in downtown Littleton venue


As the audience is seated, they find the suggestion of the ornate, carved, gilded frame around the stage, such as one finds in a turn-of-the-century opera house or theater. A closer look finds an array of kitchen utensils, small toys (Barbie with a mermaid tail), assorted junk and jewelry, cleverly assembled by scenic designer Amy Campion and sprayed with gold paint. You know a story is forthcoming — perhaps also a bit jumbled? Be sure to take a close look!

It’s time for “Peter and the Starcatcher” at Littleton’s Town Hall Arts Center. The play by Rick Elice, with music by Wayne Barker, is based on the YA novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, published in 2004, which in turn spins off J.M. Barrie’s beloved tale of the boy who didn’t want to grow up. It looks at how Peter Pan came to be a treasured thread in our collective literary fabric.

Three lost boys, Tim Howard (who has no name), Carter Edward Smith (Prentiss) and Andrew Alber (Ted) are brought to the dock — conscripted by a crew of rough seamen. There, two different sailing ships are ready to depart to exotic places. Lord Leonard Aster (Keegan Flaugh), a British gentleman, is in charge — and his daughter, Molly (Morgan Emily Patterson), accompanied by her nursemaid, Mrs. Brumbake (Scott McLean) will go along on the Neverland. She helps Peter find a name and develops a trust with them all.

Molly introduces the concept of bedtime stories to the boys and helps them with self-assurance as they negotiate over who’s in charge.

Included in the cargo is a trunk carrying valuable stardust. (A flying cat is also on board ... reminding us of the stage version of “Peter Pan,” with its elaborate flying contraptions.)

Since stardust is the sort of treasure pirates might seek, we soon meet the swaggering, supremely silly Black Stache (James O’Hagen Murphy), with a painted-on moustache and an inclination to twist the language. He demands the trunk become his possession — and demonstrates considerable agility. (Reminds one of his performance in “39 Steps” a few years back.)

They set sail to some islands, where they meet cannibals, including Flying Prawn (Kristofer Buxton) and a chorus of singing mermaids who have really imaginative/goofy costumes by Linda Morken. A storm at sea rocks ship and passengers dramatically. Katie Gruenhagen’s lighting adds greatly to the imagined scene, while Donna Kolpan Debreceni’s musical direction adds depth.

Stache, of course, continues to try to steal that trunk ... action ensues ...

In the background one hears “Tick ... Tock …” and glowing eyes appear, cleverly suggestive of that alligator who ate Captain Hook’s hand in the original story of “Peter Pan.” Language and bits of storyline connect with the well-loved original, but this production spins off in the most delightful and imaginative ways, as Peter finds his name and is assured of a place in the world. Probably adults may enjoy the humorous twists more fully than kids — but it should be fun for all who have ever loved the story.


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