Monday, May 9, 2016

Peter and the Starcatcher—Portland Playhouse—NE Portland

"An Awfully Big Adventure”
This fantasy is adapted for the stage by Rick Elice, with music by Wayne Barker, from a novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.
  It is directed by Brian Weaver (P/P’s Artistic Director) and Rebecca Lingafelter, music direction and pianist, Eric Nordin and choreography by Amy Frankel.  It is playing at their space, 602 NE Prescott St. (parking less than two blocks North on 6th Ave.), through May 29th.  For more information, go to their site at

The story is an imagined, prequel to J.M. Barrie’s,
Peter Pan…, in which we discover the origins of his name, how Hook got his…hook, where fairy dust comes from, how the Darling family fits into the Big Picture, and introducing us to the mermaids and the crock of this wonderful tale, as well as the pirates, the lost boys and the beginnings of Neverland.  There have been several versions of Peter Pan from the animated (Disney), to musicals, from early films to TV, to live action movies and to the stage.  I think my favorite, non-musical, version would be the Australian one of a few years back.
This incarnation is set in the late 1800’s with the regal, Lord Aster (Scott Engdahl), sailing on a ship called The Wasp, on business of Queen Victoria, lead by the business-like, Captain Scott (Andrea Whittle).
  His precocious daughter, Molly, (Jen Rowe), and her nanny, the fickled Mrs. Bumbrake (Sam Dinkowitz), who has an admirer in the kindly, but not-too-bright sailor, Alf (Benjamin Tissell), sailing on a ship called, Neverland, captained by the devious, Slank (Duffy Epstein). He is also carrying illegal orphans aboard his vessel by the names of Ted (Chip Sherman), who is fascinated by food; Prentiss (Sean McGrath), the unofficial leader of the pack; and a petulant Boy (Nick Ferrucci), who was never given a name.
And, of course, to be a true pirate story you must, by design have, of course…pirates.
  There is the wicked, Black Stache (Isaac Lamb) and his trusty but simple sidekick, Smee (Darius Pierce).  Then there is a shipwreck, treasures chests, mermaids, the great Crock god, a mysterious island, complete with cannibals, who’s Chief (Doren Elias) speaks with an Italian accent.  And when stardust is added to the mix, anything can happen, from floating in the air to realizing your dreams, good or bad.  To tell more would be cheating, so I’ll leave you with this:  If you ever wanted to “go home again,” to a place called Childhood, where your imaginations ran rampant, with no perceived boundaries or hard edges, this is the place you’ll find it, “second star to the right and straight on till morning!”
I couldn’t applaud harder or laugh louder than I did at this show.
  It is pure enchantment in which, through low-tech effects, you will see a fairy buzz about the stage, a girl actually float a few inches above the floor and a whole house giggling like little children at all the delights presented.  I swear you will never look at a grain of sand again in the same way, or see a rope as simply, a rope, and probably be induced to tell you’re your child a bedtime story the next night.  Whatever the results you will feel from this show, they will be positive and if you pay-it-forward, maybe a brave new world will emerge.
Some highlights for me (among the scores of highlights) was the Scottish mermaid (Dinkowitz), with an attitude; the “drag queens” mermaids’ song at the beginning of Act II; Molly (Rowe) “floating” above the ground; the prolonged laugh-fest caused by how Stache (Lamb), aka “Hook,” lost his hand; and the totally, ingenious hundreds of bits, created from ropes, mini-flashlights, curtains, toys, et. al. that went into creating this mesmerizing production.
  Weaver and Lingafelter have outdone themselves on this creation!  Every aspect of it works and the cast is equally amazing, everyone a gem.  My favorites were Rowe as a very progressive female, out of step with the times.  Her Molly is nobody’s fool and she is excellent in depicting a forward-thinking, female figure, as well as a wise and nurturing one.  And Lamb is positively brilliant in his comic shenanigans, reminding me a bit of Sid Caesar, or an offshoot of a Monty Python character.  He is possibly the funniest creation I’ve encountered onstage.
Nordin, and his band, and Frankel and her dances, as well as a terrific set from Daniel Meeker, add immensely to the success of the show.
  The storytelling aspects of this production, as well as the low-tech approach, only enhance the fun for the audience, making them feel as if they are participating in the creation of this piece.  And if you appreciated this, then check out Around the World in 80 Days which I saw at the Beaverton Civic Theatre last weekend, as the style is very similar and the actors also quite engaging.
I highly recommend this show, it’s a hoot!
  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you. 

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