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PFW shows Peter Pan’s origins

Tony-winning play settles in following a busy opening act

"Peter and the Starcatcher" continues at Williams Theatre from Nov. 17-19.

Jen Poiry Prough

Whatzup Features Writer

Published November 16, 2022

The Purdue University Fort Wayne production of Peter and the Starcatcher is, in some ways, two shows in one. 

Arrive early, and the audience finds the cast onstage chatting among themselves about fast-food restaurants. 

Eventually, it’s revealed that it’s inventory day, and the theater kids are left on their own to put away props and costumes. 

One student, Sarah Hobson, is named as the leader. As the students get to work, someone finds a Peter Pan-esque hat and music director Rolin Mains plays a snippet of “You Can Fly” from the Disney cartoon. 

The cast then slowly slips into the scripted dialogue of the play and begin to tell the story.

Eventful opening

The conceit is creative although somewhat confusing, especially considering the plot of Act One is already pretty confusing. 

Based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, with music by Wayne Barker and a script by Rick Elice, Peter and the Starcatcher is the origin story of Peter Pan. The tale takes place on two ships, The Wasp and the Neverland. 

The Wasp carries a trunk full of magical “star stuff,” which makes whoever touches it into whatever they want most, for good or bad. Lord Leonard Aster (Andrew Canaveral), a “starcatcher” in the queen’s service, accompanies the trunk with the mission of destroying the star stuff in a volcano on the tropical island of Rundoon.

Greedy Captain Bill Slank (Abigail Coates) switches the trunk for one full of sand and loads the magical trunk onto his ship, The Neverland. Lord Aster also sends his starcatcher apprentice daughter, Molly (Olivia Albertson), on The Neverland to meet him at Rundoon. 

Also onboard The Neverland are three orphans, the self-professed leader Prentiss (Christian Messmann), the food-obsessed Ted (Ian Capuyan), and an unnamed Boy (Sarah Hobson). It turns out that Slank runs a child-trafficking ring, sending orphans to the island to be sacrificed to a “giant snake.”

Pirates board The Wasp, led by Black Stache (Evan Snaufer), who has heard that The Wasp carries precious cargo belonging to the queen.

Meanwhile, on The Neverland, Molly meets up with the orphans and finds herself particularly attracted to the Boy, who has obvious leadership potential. She discovers that the star stuff is on The Neverland, and the Boy takes control of the wheel, crashing into The Wasp. 

The Neverland is torn in two, and knowing The Boy can’t swim, Molly pushes the trunk full of star stuff to him so he can float to the island of Rundoon safely.

And that’s just Act One.

Cast brings story to life

Opening with a chorus of colorful singing mermaids, the second act feels more lighthearted, possibly because there isn’t so much plot to follow. 

As the kids battle natives, pirates, and a very hungry reptile, they learn about leadership, friendship, and what “home” means.

The young cast brought a tremendous amount of energy and fun to their roles. Hobson as the Boy (who will later be given the name Peter Pan) brings the right amount of pathos to the orphan who doesn’t trust grown-ups and only wants to be a boy for once (and forever). 

Albertson portrayed the perfect balance of Molly’s know-it-all competitiveness with the pangs of growing up as an emotionally vulnerable yet independent woman in Victorian England.

Capuyan’s athletic exuberance as Ted was a highlight of the production, and Lee Martin’s stunningly gorgeous voice brought chills during her too-short solos. In fact, all the singing from the cast was top notch, as directed by Mains.

Director Bev Redman used clever staging to depict flying animals, people, and a certain fairy. 

The lighting effects by Mark Ridgeway brilliantly conveyed the movement and excitement of chase scenes and sea battles. The costumes by Austin M. Rausch under the supervision of Jeanne Pendleton were eye-catching and, in some cases, hilarious.

Peter and the Starcatcher is a funny, silly, and surprisingly moving family show that shouldn’t be missed.

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