Regional Reviews: Phoenix
With an ensemble cast that portrays dozens of characters, Peter and the Starcatcher tells us the story of how an unnamed orphan became the famous boy named Peter Pan who wouldn't grow up. It also answers some other questions, including how Captain Hook lost his hand, how the crocodile got the clock in his belly, and how Tinkerbell came to life.
Using a mostly bare stage along with a few crates, some rope, and a few small costume accessories and small props, it is a play that shows how the power of imagination can bring a story rich with pirates and adventure to life right in front of our eyes. Director Louis Farber has cast this production with talented leads and a supporting group of actors who all play multiple parts with ease and dexterity.
While it is an ensemble production, there are three main characters that propel the story forward. As Peter, Alex Tuchi projects a youthful gleam for fun and adventure beneath his unsure and lost exterior while his measured line delivery and downward looks effectively portray Peter's naivete. As Molly, the girl that Peter meets and who changes his life, Shelby Maticic is full of spirit and spunk. She is authoritative and feisty but also sweet and protective of Peter and the people who are close to her. Both Tuchi and Maticic are exceptional at showing us how their characters learn, grown and change through their adventures. Brian Maticic turns the villainous part of Black Stache, the name of Captain Hook before he assumed that title, into a crowd-pleaser, making small comic moments into big gags that deliver bigger laughs. He also shows us how skilled he is in the ability to take the simple repeated phrase of "oh my God," with various facial expressions and vocal inflections, and turn it into one of hilarity.
In the supporting cast, Connor Wanless is a hoot as Stache's zany right hand Smee, while John Perovich is full of warmth as Molly's father. Cliff Williams and Jon Gradilla do well in playing the pair of 13-year-old boys who are Peter's fellow orphan friends with the appropriate display of everything from fear to courage, and a dollop of sarcasmthe exact traits you'd expect to find in a pair of teenagers. Stephanie Spencer is charming and witty as Molly's maid Mrs. Bumbrake, while Clayton Caufman is a lot of fun as the man who falls for her. Luke Gomez plays multiple parts, including a native tribesman, with ease, and Amber Wright and Elizabeth Lyon portray the captains of the two ships where most of the action takes place with an abundance of burliness and authority.
Farber's direction keeps the pace at a breakneck speed for most of the evening, though he makes sure the few quiet moments resonate. He also does a very good job in not making any of the moments too busy and manages to use the small Brelby space quite effectively. Having seen this play on Broadway I believe that it plays even better in a small venue, which lets the intimacy of the story and the journey of the main characters resonate in a clearer and more focused way. One of my quibbles comes with the first few minutes of the show, which are somewhat muddy as it is delivered at a fairly fast pace with all of the actors already at a high energy level, so it takes a while for the audience to be pulled into the story. Also, only a few of the actors attempt English accents, which just comes across as odd, especially since the three orphan boys are mentioned as being British yet none of them speaks with a British accent. And while Maticic's performance of Stache's "oh my God!" solo bit is very funny, it goes on just a beat or two too long and I believe if it were trimmed just a bit it would be even funnier.
The combination of the simple yet effective set design by Niccole Minnie Cluff with Mollie Flanagan's exceptional lighting and our own imagination creates a treasure trove of scenes and locations before our eyes, from a ship's hold to a giant crocodile's mouth. The costumes by Allison Bauer are period perfect and gorgeous. CJ O'Hara provides the clear music direction and accompaniment for the few musical numbers by Wayne Barker, which include a hilarious second act opener that the cast delivers exceptionally.
Any fairy tale requires the imagination of the person reading it to make the story come to life. With an engaging cast, sure-footed direction, and impressive creative elements, Brelby's production of Peter and the Starcatcher lets your sense of imagination run free in a simply beautiful theatrical experience.
The Brelby Theatre Company production of Peter and the Starcatcher runs through February 12th, 2017, with performances at 7154 N 58th Drive in Glendale. Tickets are available at www.brelby.com or by phone at (623) 282-2781
Director: Louis Farber