Peter and the Starcatcher by The Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, PA
November 10, 2016
Review submitted by Emma Danz of Harriton High School
Joining the timeless tale of lost boys, fairy dust, and a boy who wouldn’t grow up, Episcopal Academy’s Domino Club created a world where sailors, orphans, and dreamers came together through laughter and tears to share Peter and the Starcatcher.
Peter and the Starcatcher imparts the imaginative prequel to Peter and Wendy, giving backstory to the age-old but forever young Peter Pan. Based off of the novel by Dave Barry and Richard Pearson, the theatrical adaptation initially took to the stage in California. Opening to successful runs both on Broadway and off, the show received several Tony Awards and rave reviews from the New York Times.
The ensemble-heavy piece highlighted Episcopal Academy’s impressive ability to move dynamically and expressively throughout the intimate black-box space. Each sharing ample stage time, the actors and actresses delivered lines with poignant timing. Actors were challenged with the loaded dialogue yet still portrayed the strong emotions of their complex characteristics with eloquence and poise.
Leading the quirky ensemble of characters was confident, headstrong Molly Aster, played by Helena Bryant. Bryant effectively balanced stubbornness and vulnerability with a practiced hair flip and warm smile. Opposite her, a kindred spirit and a challenge, stood Kelly Flynn, playing the unnamed orphan soon to become Peter Pan. Flynn’s emotionally charged stage presence beautifully portrayed both resentment and endless hope. The clear chemistry between Bryant and Flynn was heartwarming and essential to the show’s success.
The ensemble was rounded out by villains and comics, most notably Greg Smith playing Black Stache- the bumbling and inexperienced pirate looking for an adversary– and McKee Bond as Mrs. Bumbrake, Molly’s prim and loyal nanny. Prone to speaking in witty alliterations, McKee’s role is written in the tradition of pantomime dame, a convention of pantomime theater where men portray female characters with exaggerated melodrama. Both Smith and Bond maximized the humorous potential in their parts, using physically comedic expressions and movements alongside impeccable timing.
Never to be understated, Episcopal’s technical elements were integral to creating a believable atmosphere. Student lighting designer, Maddie Donatucci, utilized a variety of instruments to indicate isolated locations and communicate mood through differently gelled specials. Lighting cues flowed seamlessly and created another engaging dimension to the already dynamic piece.
Although the set will soon be struck and the costumes packed away, saying goodbye to this wonderful production will certainly not mean forgetting its beautiful message of home and heart.
Review submitted by Juliana Denick of Upper Merion Area High School
To have faith is to have wings. At least, that’s the premise of Peter and the Starcatcher, a play recently performed at the Episcopal Academy. The show is a prequel to Peter Pan and tells the story of how Peter became the Boy Who Never Grows Up. It takes on the themes of family, belief, loneliness, and love, and truly takes the audience through the emotional ringer. The show’s original run on Broadway was a success, winning five Tony Awards, and the Academy’s version certainly holds true to that legacy.
The show was performed in a black-box theater with a relatively small set, using only the center, four corners of the room, and the pathways between. The space, however, felt intimate and concise, enhancing the show, and making the audience feel as though they, too, were on an adventure with Peter and Molly. The staging was very dynamic and lively, moving around the room constantly, ensuring that each seat in the room was both the best (and worst) seat in the house.
The acting was phenomenal, with countless standout moments, but special attention should be paid to Helena Bryant, who played Molly, and Kelly Flynn, who played Peter. Both actresses encompassed their characters, and showed true acting grit. Their connection was tangible and intimate, and scenes the two shared were enjoyable.
While the show has a great deal of dramatic moments, it also has a copious amount of comedy, brought on mostly by Black Stache, the pirate played by Greg Smith, and Smee, his bumbling companion, played by Brooke Kraftson. The pair had excellent comedic timing, and they played very easily off each other. Their facial expressions and body movements were hilarious, and the duo had the audience roaring with laughter.
The ensemble and supporting cast were crucial to this production, giving the narrative, setting scenes, and playing the middle ground between heroes and villains. Characters like Slank, played by Emily Wingfield, Mrs. Bumbrake, played by McKee Bond, Teacher, played by Phoebe Barr, and Sanchez, played by Amalie Hipp, were easily crowd favorites for their humorous but small roles that truly commanded the stage and the audience’s attention.
Overall, the Episcopal Academy’s performance of Peter and the Starcatcher was truly stellar, and definitely not one to miss!