Under a cloud of clutter and renovation dust, Asheville Community Theatre presses on as its main stage in downtown undergoes a makeover. The company has found a new temporary home in the Belk Theatre at UNC Asheville, going from a large house and stage to a performance in the round for Peter and The Starcatcher. The production is a sometimes-musical (there are songs, but only a handful) play about how Peter Pan became the boy who would not grow up. Written by Rick Elice from the book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, the show is a classic fairy tale adventure prequel, yet also has plenty of sly nods to our modern world.
Directed by Chanda Calentine, the show is a wonder of motion and energy. The Belk space lends itself to clever staging. A cast of 13 actors play more than 100 roles, from members of the Royal British Navy, to pirates, islanders and orphans of an assortment of ages and genders.
The story revolves around an orphan boy, en route to being sold into slavery with his friends, who finds himself thrust on a path to a new destiny. A young girl named Molly is in the company of some untrustworthy characters on a slow moving ship. There, she finds and befriends these lost boys, helping to liberate them. Molly, played with exuberant feminist spunk by Chloe Zeitounian, is a Starcatcher, entrusted with particles of a fallen star that imbue those who touch it with powers. She must get a trunk full of the remaining “star stuff” safely away. Mike Yow’s Captain Slank has other ideas, as does pirate Black Stache, who steals Molly’s father’s ship and takes him hostage. John Hall gives a manic and inspired performance as Stache, invoking more than a little Steve Martin in his interpretation of the man who is destined to become a more famous pirate rival to the eventual Peter Pan.
Alex Daly‘s Peter is equal parts boyish charm and swagger. He is well suited to the role, and he and Zeitonunian have a delightfully chemistry that is deeply affecting. As their destinies are revealed, they grow from rivals to friends, to more romantic notions. We all know where things are headed, thanks to the long enduring Peter Pan tales, and it makes for an emotional resolution to this tale that will lead to a more familiar one.
Bradshaw Call, Pat LaCorte and Anna Zurliene give strong performances among a clockwork precise ensemble, who perform their roles, while also moving set pieces and creating dynamic effects with a variety of inventive props. You feel like you are on a ship at sea, a tropical island, afloat on the ocean and in a deep cavern with a mystical mermaid, even though your eyes inform you otherwise. It is a journey of the imagination, pulled off with supreme creativity.
Brad Curtioff‘s musical direction is spot on, though there are only eight songs in the entire show. Jillian Summers has designed an elaborate set, which has a number of hidden compartments, ramps and other features that allow actors quick access to props and other materials needed to tell the story at its breakneck pace.
WHAT: Peter And The Starcather by Asheville Community Theatre and the UNCA Theatre Department. ashevilletheatre.org
WHERE: Belk Theatre, UNC Asheville
WHEN: Through Saturday, April 15, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m. $ 7-$22