Peter and the Starcatcher is a silly, boisterous good time

Theater Latté Da, performing at The Ritz, through February 26

Ensemble in Peter and the Starcatcher. Photo by Dan Norman.

Theater Latte Da has now certainly solidified itself as one of the best companies in the Twin Cities, especially for the production of musicals. It should come as no surprise then that their latest offering, Peter and the Starcatcher, is decidedly delightful. More a “play with music” than a full-blown opus, the show, written by Rick Elice, is a bit of a trifle, albeit one bursting with creative energy. It gives audiences an origin story to a favorite childhood tale about the boy who never grows up and his swashbuckling nemesis.

The story centers on Molly Aster, a thirteen-year-old know-it-all lacking in friends, who is ½ of the 6 ½ “Starcatchers” in the world. She apprentices in this profession with her father Lord Leonard Aster, and together they must fulfill a secret mission from Queen Victoria to transport a chest of “star stuff”—dust made of the remnants of falling stars that gives those who touch it immense power to fulfill their wildest dreams—to a remote island for destruction.

En route, Molly encounters Peter, a stowaway orphan bound to become snake food, who is accompanied by two similarly ill-fated youth, and the two strike up a friendship. When Lord Aster’s ship is attacked by pirates, including the aptly named Black Stache and his first mate Smee, Molly enlists Peter and the other orphan boys to save the day.

In its original Broadway iteration, many of the twelve actors played multiple characters, and director Joel Sass has whittled this down even further to a uniformly excellent cast of just nine actors. There is not a weak link in the bunch, which is led by Tyler Michaels, who lends his clear voice to the proceedings and communicates the Boy’s journey to becoming Peter Pan with expressive physicality. Pearce Bunting hilariously relishes every line of cackling wordplay as Black Stache, Megan Burns is both delightfully naïve and thoughtful as Molly, Andre Shoals deliciously steps into the role of island Fighting Prawn, and Craig Johnson as Molly’s nanny Betty Bumbrake, beguilingly babbles alliterations on her way to her own rollicking romance. Ricardo Beaird, Adam Qualls, James Rodriguez, and Silas Sellnow also provide uniquely endearing characterizations, but we only have so many words!

Perhaps, however, the most impressive feat of this cast is their chemistry as an ensemble. The madcap nature of the show demands a rapid succession of lines in continuous rhythms and they nail it, delivering a high-wire act of carefully staged movement and interplay.

Sass also serves as scenic designer, channeling vaudeville and using a number of found objects to create a fun, highly kinetic atmosphere that mirrors the ragtag adventures of Peter’s characters. Each boisterous note of Wayne Barker’s music is enhanced by Denise Prosek’s music direction, and Marcus Dilliard’s lighting design expertly accentuates the play’s many moods and goofy asides.

If there’s anything to complain about, it’s the script itself, which is admirably absurd, yet fairly shallow. It also is a bit bogged down in detail, especially in its first few scenes establishing its complicated plot schemes. But no matter, it’s pleasantly punny and features such silliness as somewhat masculine mermaids and Italian-food word spouting island natives. It’s an escapist antidote to the current news cycle and allows its audiences to find catharsis in wild, non-stop grins as they remember that we were all young dreamers once.

David and Chelsea Berglund review movies on their site Movie Matrimony.

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