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Review: Peter and the Starcatcher 

Tyler Gillespie on a show about the origins of Peter Pan

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"I hate grownups," shouts an orphan boy, who along with two companions, is locked in the belly of a ship called Neverland. They're en route to become food for a far-off king's snakes. When 13-year-old Molly Aster hears of the boys' plight, she sneaks past crewmen to help. At first, the young captives don't want to follow her because the leader "has to be a boy." After the promise of food, though, they accept her help and an epic journey begins.

  In Peter and the Starcatcher, recently on the boards at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre, the backstory of forever-young Peter Pan is turned into a coming-of-age adventure. After meeting Molly (Ashley Ricord Santos), the boy (Nick Stephens) feels a spark; he's felt unnoticed all his life. Molly tells him she's on the ship as part of her father's mission to help save the Queen of England. Molly is an apprentice to her father Lord Aster (Jimmy Murphy), a "Starcatcher" who collects star debris that falls from the sky. When pirates hear Neverland is bearing special cargo, they assume it's gold and diamonds, and Black Stache (Alex Martinez Wallace) and his crew ransack the British ship.

  Director Beau Bratcher's show is impressively staged. When Molly sneaks down to help the boys, the set comes alive, pantomimed by the actors. They form the ship's bow by interlocking their bodies, and they spin when she enters a different part of the ship, which gives the show great action and energy. Most of the actors change characters, sometimes in the same scene, and transitions are seamless. In Act 2, Lord Aster goes from ship captain to a tribesman. The large cast is full of strong performances, and the opening of the second act, with singing and dancing mermaids, is hysterical.

  The show is family friendly but not just for kids. It's packed with jokes for all ages and there are some for adults, which often come from Molly's scene-stealing nanny, Bumbrake (Alex Smith). Black Stache gets the most laughs, and he's more of a caricature of a villain than evil. Wallace has perfect timing and plays to the crowd as he sets up a grand battle with Peter Pan.

  Stephens gives the boy, who eventually becomes Peter Pan, compelling depth. He's hardened by his circumstances, yet trusting and hopeful. It's believable that he would always want to remain a boy. His scenes with Molly, who shuns sentiment, are touching. Molly is tough, and Santos has one of the cast's best singing voices. The two teens run from pirates, but they're still caught up in young love, and they find time to share a kiss.

  The show features great acting and high production values, making Peter and the Starcatcher a heartwarming and hilarious show for the whole family.

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