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Thursday, October 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ brings a little magic to Coeur d’Alene

“Peter and the Starcatcher,” making its regional debut at Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, is a prequel to “Peter Pan,” telling the story of how a nameless orphan became the boy who never grew up, how he found his perfect nemesis in Captain Hook and how he came to live in Neverland.

As it’s based on a novel written by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry, it’s funny, with some double entendres aimed at adults and fart jokes aimed at the kiddos. But it also has heart, as it deals with issues of family and belonging, of staying true to yourself. There’s a bit of magic, too, as long as you believe.

The story begins in England, where Lord Aster (Frank Lawler) is on a mission for Queen Victoria. He hires two ships, the fast frigate, the Wasp, and a slower ship, the Neverland, captained by the nasty Bill Slank (Aubrey Shimek Davis). Aster is in possession of “star stuff,” magical bits of stars that have fallen to earth that the Queen has ordered destroyed. He puts the trunk aboard the Wasp, and puts his daughter Molly (Sophia Franzella), her nanny, Mrs. Bumbrake (Jadd Davis), and a duplicate trunk aboard the Neverland. Also on the Neverland are three orphans – a nameless boy (Nik Hagen), along with Ted (Mitch Haid) and Prentiss (Tyler Krieg) – purchased by Slank as snake food for an evil king.

Molly is an overachiever, and she decides to help the orphan boys out, leading them to the good food on ship. She instantly takes an interest in the boy, but he is hesitant. The world has treated him harshly his entire life, and every adult he’s encountered has lied to him. All he really wants, he says, is to be a boy for a little while.

Together, Franzella and Hagen are charming. He begins the piece a victim of the world, but through Molly’s support and a touch of something not unlike pixie dust, he finds his way.

After both ships set sail, the Wasp is overtaken by the pirate Black Stache (Brandon O’Neill) and his crew. It’s here that the comedy really kicks into gear. O’Neill is glorious as the pirate who will be Captain Hook, smarmy and cheesy and really great with the malapropisms. He wants the treasures, sure, but he’s also looking for a hero, an adversary worthy of his wretchedness. “Oh, what sublime enemies will we be,” he says when he finally meets his match.

“Peter and the Starcatcher” is a stunningly simple bit of theater. Using little more than ropes and ladders, platforms and boxes, the cast of 12 actors takes the audience aboard ship to a mysterious island and into the sea. It’s an inventive bit of stagecraft.

It’s also not a musical, per se, but it is musical. There are songs woven throughout, and a genuine kick line featuring mermaids (and no, I’m not sure how that’s supposed to work, either). It’s delightful, well-acted, warm and funny, and sure to engage adults and kids. In short, it’s a winner.

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