By Emma Shacochis, Oakton High School
If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting Neverland, you won’t need starstuff to get there—the magical world is thriving onstage in Tuscarora High School’s inventive, spellbinding production of “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
J.M. Barrie’s classic fairytale, Peter Pan, has been adapted countless times for the screen, stage, and page. “Peter and the Starcatcher,” written by Rick Elice and based on Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s eponymous book series, ran in California and off-Broadway before opening on Broadway in 2012, winning five Tony awards.
“Peter and the Starcatcher” tells the origin story of Peter Pan before he arrived in Neverland. Along with two other orphaned “lost boys,” Peter is trapped on a sea voyage where he forms a bond with Molly Aster, an apprentice starcatcher sworn to protect a trunk full of a mysterious, powerful substance called starstuff. When the Black Stache, a hirsute swashbuckler, attempts to steal the trunk, Peter must help Molly keep it safe, while along the way, learning to be a hero—and a friend.
Cooper Josties deftly portrayed Peter’s initial mistrust of the world and the adults in it through his disillusioned mannerisms and delivery. However, as the adventure progressed, Josties gradually developed his character into the bold, clever Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. Joining him on his adventure was the precocious Molly Aster, played ebulliently by Kelly De Angioletti. De Angioletti balancing of Molly’s teenage insecurities and curiosity with her mature incisiveness and leadership skills made for a layered performance. Josties and De Angioletti displayed a clear contrast in their characters – Peter’s wish to stay a boy clashing with Molly’s enthusiasm to grow up – but their competitive connection still developed into a sweet, adolescent relationship that grew throughout their adventure.
As the animated antagonist Black Stache, Sam Barthel’s dedicated, flamboyant performance constantly had the audience in stitches. Joined by the simpering Smee (Riley Steinkirchner, a hilariously supportive sidekick), Barthel’s sinister swagger and mispronounced monologues worked together to make Black Stache a villain both impish and imposing. Barthel’s expressive energy, culminating in his accidental transformation into Peter’s iconic one-handed nemesis, couldn’t help but make viewers cheer for the bombastic buccaneer.
The lively ensemble had “all hands on deck” throughout the show. While they were dynamic as dastardly pirates and Italian-spouting island natives, they were equally spirited and engaged when playing backdrops, such as an island storm, a shimmering grotto, or a winding ship’s hallway.
Molly Klemm’s direction was skillful as a steadfast sea captain. Klemm always kept the play’s tone lighthearted, even when dealing with more mature subjects such as loss and abuse. Her innovative staging of scenes such as a rhyming rumble, jungle chase, and the show-stopping serenade, “Mermaid Outta Me”, were full of imagination. Klemm’s directorial choices made sure that the show balanced comedy with its bittersweet message about the inevitability of growing up.
The show’s adventurous world was excellently encompassed through the set, which resembled a playground and added to the youthful nature of the show; its different levels were effectively transformed into a multitude of different locations, such as vast ship decks and a sprawling jungle.
The hair and makeup team’s addition of blackened teeth to sailors, graying hair to adults, and the infamous facial hair of Black Stache were all eye-catching and well-designed; additionally, the inspired costuming choice to dress the ensemble in white and beige meant they could easily adapt into their various characters.
Through whimsical creativity and delightful performances, Tuscarora’s “Peter and the Starcatcher” soars high as a cloud and shines bright as a star. Tiramisu!