Review: 'Peter and the Starcatcher' at Warner Stage Company

Nancy Sasso Janis

“We haven't got all night Smee. People have paid for nannies and parking.” - Black Stash breaking the fourth wall in ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’
Torrington, CT - I did not know much about the Tony-winning ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ before the show started in the Nancy Marine Studio Theatre, but I was aware that it was a prequel to ‘Peter Pan.’ My teenaged companion knew less than me, so of course he was the one who got to interact with the Captain Hook character before the show began. He was mostly confused during the first act; when I told him about it being a prequel at the intermission, it helped him to enjoy the rest a bit more. 
So ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ tells the backstory of the miserable orphan who would become the boy who would not grow up. The young orphan without a name and his mates are shipped on a ship from Victorian England to a distant kingdom ruled by an evil king. There are some marauding pirates, a jungle tyrant, less-than-willing comrades and unlikely heroes in this engaging adventure. Best of all there is a mysterious trunk in the captain’s cabin, which contains a precious, otherworldly cargo. At sea, the boys are discovered by a precocious young girl named Molly, a Starcatcher-in-training who realizes that the trunk’s precious cargo is starstuff, a celestial substance so powerful that it must never fall into the wrong hands.
The theatrical production is an adaptation of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s novels. The play was conceived for the stage by original directors, Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, and written by Rick Elice, with music by Wayne Barker. A dozen actors portray more than 100 unforgettable characters in this play with music,
Director Katherine Ray used ingenious staging with a healthy dose of imagination in her vision of the tale and collaborated with Stephen Houk on designing the clever set. Music director Dan Ringuette worked with percussionist Don Amodio to produce some magical sounds and eight songs, and the costumes by Renee C. Purdy and assistant costumer Aurora Montenero had the perfect childlike quality. The mermaids’ “Mermaid Outta Me” was a laugh riot and the actors made the most of their comical costumes. Matt Delong designed the fun lighting and Chris LaPlante made sure that everyone could be heard. Executive in charge of production Sharon A. Wilcox served as choreographer.
The orphans were played by three talented young actors and all were charmingly convincing. Stephen Lenczewski, a CCSU BFA graduate, played the boy who is eventually named Peter Pan, while UConn student Oliver Kochol played Prentiss and American Musical & Dramatic Academy graduate Zachary Taylor was the food-obsessed Ted. 
The British subjects were led by the always admirable Waterbury teacher Bret Bisaillon as Lord Leonard Aster, the father of Molly. Kelly White, the only actress in the cast, gave a glowing performance in the role of the precocious Molly. Ms. White is a recent graduate of UConn School of Music, where she did a lot of opera. Rick Fountain made us laugh in the role of Mrs. Bumbrake, the nanny of Molly. Todd Santa Maria was commanding in the role of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Michael Wright of Newtown was Grempkin. 

The Seafarers (for all intents and purposes, the pirates) were played by Joe Guttadauro as Bill Slank, Keith Paul of Desultory Theatre Club as Alf, and Joe Harding as the amusing Smee. They were led by Black Stache played to the hilt by the young community theatre veteran Ian Diedrich. The role that was played on Broadway by Christian Borle was the perfect fit for this talented comic actor who is also a marvelous singer. Try not to miss a single one of his hysterical malapropisms. 
The natives were played by Mr. Wright as Fighting Prawn, Mr. Guttadauro as Hawking Clam and Mr. Fountain as Teacher. While these actors did in fact cover the roles with which they are credited, everyone in the cast took on roles of inanimate objects as well, including stars and doors. 
This has to be one of the tightest ensemble casts of the season; everyone clearly had to depend upon each other to make the intricate moves work, and everything worked very well. The fact that all but one of them were guys (for the nanny was played well by a male actor) made for a nice change of pace, in the vein of two of the shows, ‘1776’ and ‘Newsies,’ in the CRT season at UConn Storrs. I liked that Molly plays a crucial role in the story before the story and the actress in the Warner Stage production made the most of the role. I wished that the two acts had a little more music, because the choral numbers were well performed and I would have enjoyed hearing more of Ms. White’s vocals. 
 PETER AND THE STARCATCHER at the Warner Theatre's Nancy Marine Studio Theater June 17-25, 2017 For tickets call (860) 489-7180 #stache


Nancy Sasso Janis is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and continues to contribute theatre news to local sites. Check out her new Facebook page Nancy Sasso Janis: Theatre Reviewer and follow her on Twitter @nancysjanis417

Photo Credit: Mandi Martini and Luke Haughwout
©2017 The Warner Theatre