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“Peter and the Starcatcher” is a Richly Imaginative and Gloriously Funny Adventure

Most all of us have grown up with the classic tale of Peter Pan. But did you ever wonder how an orphaned boy actually became the boy who never grew up? You needn’t wonder any longer. Just head to Virginia Rep’s production of Peter and the Starcatcher and the mystery will unfold.

Based on the 2006 novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dave Barry and New York Times bestselling author Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Starcatcher spins a funny, scary, delightful tale of intrigue and self-discovery.

Jeremy Michael Lagunas, center. Photo by Aaron Sutten.
Jeremy Michael Lagunas, center. Photo by Aaron Sutten.

The play asks you to rely on your imagination as you voyage through the story. You’ll be provided with sound effects and a richly imaginative plot, but it’s up to you to visualize many a moment.

The story is wrapped around a precocious 13-year-old girl, Molly Aster, who travels with her father, Lord Aster, to deliver a chest filled with “star stuff” that he is guarding for the Queen. As a last-minute safety measure, Molly’s father decides the two should travel separately. He boards the Wasp with what he thinks is the magic treasure-filled trunk, while the young girl and her nanny on the Neverland ship, are left to fend for themselves against the evil, but quite hilarious pirate Black Stache and his motley crew. During the course of the voyage, Molly meets three orphans who have been sold into service (they think), one of which is known, simply, as the Boy. She sees something special in him and they form an unending friendship. But first things first: They have to save the Queen’s chest from the dastardly pirates.

Scott Wichmann. Photo by Aaron Sutten.
Scott Wichmann. Photo by Aaron Sutten.

Director Nathaniel Shaw has given the audience a wonderful present by way of this production. His casting choices are downright perfect. He’s given the actors the ability to be flexible and personable in the moment. Playwright Rich Elice has provided a wonderful canvas for the imagination, as illustrated by many ingenious scenes, including a favorite in the first act when cast members themselves transform into doors and walls in the underbelly of the Neverland.

The talent on stage is phenomenal. The ensemble cast works as one moving with fluidity and synchronicity. Action and a plotline that is fast and furious require complete concentration in order to catch all of the dialogue, which can be difficult to do.

The entire cast is strong and skilled, delivering a Broadway-level performance from beginning to end in a show so avant gard, it

Megan Graves and Jeremy Michael Lagunas. Photo by Aaron Sutten.
Megan Graves and Jeremy Michael Lagunas. Photo by Aaron Sutten.

seems to have been teleported directly from a New York stage to Virginia Rep’s November Theatre on Broad Street. It would be difficult to single out each noteworthy portrayal with this large, brilliant cast so I’ll only highlight four.

Jeremy Michael Lagunas skillfully taps into the Boy’s innocence and also plays up his resentment for adults. He effectively takes us on the Boy’s journey to becoming Peter Pan.

Robert Throckmorton is thoroughly delightful in his dual roles as Molly’s nanny and as teacher. He scores belly laughs with his portrayal of a mermaid. He is a complete joy to watch.

The grizzly pirate Black Stache wouldn’t be anywhere as funny and charming without the mega talent of Scott Wichmann. A master of characterization, Wichmann delivers a spot-on comedic performance that rivals the likes of Robin Williams or Ben Stillar. He is a genius at what he does.

Megan Graves handles the very smart, mature-for-her-age Molly like a seasoned pro, which Graves is. Her energy on stage will leave you breathless. She absolutely nails the character and delivers an award-winning performance.

Kudos also go out to light designer B. J. Wilkinson for the incredible stars in the night and to costume designer Jeanne Nugent whose creations really hit the mark. Set Designer Craig Napoliello’s design offers just the right backdrop for this innovative show.

Peter and the Starcatcher is a Tony award-winning musical play with several well-timed and artfully executed numbers. It runs two hours and fifteen minutes with intermission and is recommended for ten and up according to the production’s website. If your children have read the book, the plot will be easier to follow, but keep in mind that the show is a fabulous exercise for one’s imagination – and a very worthwhile one.

Peter and the Starcatcher is a creative, spellbinding tour-de-force and a must-see. The play runs through October 25 at November Theatre. Click here for showtimes and tickets.

An award-winning writer based in Richmond, Joan Tupponce is a parent, grandparent, and self-admitted Disney freak. She writes about anything and everything and enjoys meeting inspiring people and telling their stories. Joan’s work has appeared in RFM since the magazine’s first issue in October 2009. Look for original and exclusive online articles about Richmond-area people, places, and ideas at Just Joan: RVA Storyteller.

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