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What an opening! What a show! Camarillo Skyway Playhouse‘s latest production of the multi-Tony Award-winning Peter and the Starcatcher opened last night to great laughter and delight. Based on the Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson preteen novel, the play by Rick Elice transports the audience on a whimsical and nonsensical high flying adventure to Neverland before Peter Pan even had a name.
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What’s PETER AND THE STARCATCHER About?
Told at breakneck speeds, the story starts with the nameless orphan Boy who will become Peter Pan (Whitney Grubb) and future Lost Boys, pushy Prentiss (Andrew Nuñez) and the ravenous Ted (Stephanie Raymond), as they are sold to the ruthless Bill Slank (Scott Donohue), captain of the old ship Neverland. Aboard the same ship is Molly Aster (Peyton Pugh), a star catcher in training, who is being watched over by her hilarious nanny, Mrs. Bumbrake (Shawn Adams-Lanz), while her father, Lord Aster (Bryan White), travels on the faster Wasp with Captain Scott (Janelle Phaneuf) on a secret mission for Queen Victoria.
Therein lies the opening for Black Stache (Ezra Eells), Smee (Lauren Rachel) and his band of misfit pirates to come looking for treasure but of course nothing goes simply and the orphan boys must team up with Molly in hopes of saving the “starstuff” from the nefarious adults on either side of them. Their adventure leads them at the start of Act Two to an island run by Italian food-loving Fighting Prawn (Gabriel C. Gentile) where all leads to a happy ever after ending and the creation of well-loved characters Peter Pan and Captain Hook and Tinkerbell.
One of the strongest ensemble pieces
Helmed by R. Shane Bingham (General Manager at Camarillo Skyway Playhouse), the cast is one of the strongest ensemble pieces I’ve ever seen at CSP starring local favorite Ezra Eells in a physically comedic role that seems made for him. He could give Tony Award-winning Christian Borle a run for his money with his incredible comedic timing, physicality, chemistry opposite Lauren Rachel‘s Smee, and is hilarious with his entertaining narcissistic ways.
The Hilarious and Unlikely Pairing
Along for the ride are Shawn Adams-Lanz and Genevieve Levin who make the unlikely pairing of Mrs. Bumbrake and Alf. Their chemistry and scenes are all too short and hilarious. They need their own sequel.
Scott Donohue (Slank) is everything ferocious and nasty you could hope for in a villain. As the adults playing children, Whitney Grubb (as Boy) with her mop of unruly hair and baggy clothes tugs at your heartstrings with her longing for family, home and a name, Peyton Pugh (as Molly) is hilarious as she speaks a made-up language with her father (Bryan White) and sympathetic as she brings the three orphans into her care and Stephanie Raymond gets some of the best one-liners as pork obsessed Ted.
Employing theatrical make-belief, the actors hold up a piece of rope to symbolize a doorway, a shimmery piece of fabric symbolizes the sea and a model ship conveys the action of sailing.
Props to Laura Comstock and Genevieve Levin for the ingenious costume design
One of the highlights has to be the second act opening song and dance number with Ezra Eells and cast in mermaid drag holding up fabric fins as they sing and dance. You have to see it to believe it. Yes there are some songs sung very well by the ensemble cast but this is not a musical but rather a play with music sprinkled in here and there.
And in one of the funniest and quietest cameos, Janelle Phaneuf is too cute as a gloved hand symbolizing a bird. Seeing her on stage it is no wonder she was able to draw out so much charm and innocence from her Godspell cast at Conejo Players.
As R. Shane Bingham says,
We believe it will be a show that will entertain you, challenge you, and change you.
Is PETER AND THE STARCATCHER Kid Friendly?
Yes and no. The story is after all based on a preteen book series with great fantasy escapades like dueling ships and pirates and starstuff. However, the show is also liberally peppered with innuendos, fast wordplay, cultural references, gender blind casting that all together could make it a bit confusing for the younger audience members.
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Disclaimer: My ticket was generously comped by CSP but all opinions are my own.