Washington Lee High School
A boxing match in iambic pentameter, a native group who speaks mainly in Italian cuisine, and an inspiringly fierce heroine were just some of the charming elements in Tuscarora High School's production of Peter and the Starcatcher. The actors carefully balanced the comedic and sincere elements of this prequel to J.M. Barrie's classic Peter Pan.
Peter and the Starcatcher is a 2009 play adapted for the stage by Rick Elice from the 2004 novel Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. It introduces Captain Hook, Smee, the crocodile, Mrs. Darling, Peter Pan, his first two Lost Boys, the mermaids, the natives, and even Tinker Bell, weaving a tale of how they all got to where they are when Peter Pan begins.
The 2012 Broadway production of Peter and the Starcatcher was highly praised for its inventive storytelling without much of a set, even winning a Tony Award for Best Scenic Design of a Play. Tuscarora's production followed in the footsteps of the original with creative staging and use of scenery, while still making the material their own. This was particularly impressive considering that the show was directed by Molly Klemm, who is a student at the school. One standout idea was having the two-tiered set itself, with the addition of two circles of red LEDs, portraying the crocodile.
However, what really carries the show are the performances from the cast. Cooper Josties played Peter as an angry, but scared loner who is really quite "lost". His chemistry with Patrick Hensley and DJ Strigel, as his future Lost Boys was heartwarming. Even better was his connection with Kelly De Angioletti who played Molly (the future Mrs. Darling). They were adorable and awkward as all 13-year-olds who maybe have a tiny crush on each. De Angioletti played Molly as a precocious girl who just wants to be a grown-up. Her comedic timing and line snarky line readings were impeccable, and the character development from know-it-all to hero was perfectly played.
Despite so many amazing performances, from Riley Steinkirchner playing Smee to Katie Olivero playing Molly's highly alliterative nanny, Mrs. Bumbrake to the completely cohesive ensemble, one actor completely stole the show. Sam Barthel playing Black Stache (the future Captain Hook). Stache seems like an inherently fun character to play with all the anachronistic jokes, melodramatic physical humor, and malicious sarcasm that is written into the script. Still, Barthel stuck the landing of every joke and put so much energy into his performance that it was hard not to root for the villainous character to at least get more stage time, if nothing else.
One scene that especially gave Barthel, as well as a few other cast members a chance to have fun was one of the few musical numbers in this otherwise straight play at the opening of Act Two. Eight cast members, led by Barthel, came out in full makeup and skirts as mermaids and sang about being transformed from fish. It was glorious. This was a highlight for the makeup and costume designers as well, letting them do their most intense and overstated work of the show.
This comedy with a heart-of-gold is perfect for just about everyone, and this production played into all the strengths of the script, while adding heart and depth to it as well. The inventive design and heartfelt relationships could make even the most cynical pessimist smile at the magic and joy of childhood.
McLean High School
It's a story everyone knows: a ticking crocodile, a pirate captain with a hook for a hand, a defiant fairy, and a boy who never grows up. But who was Peter before he became Pan? In Tuscarora High School's "Peter and the Starcatcher," imagination and nostalgia collide with magic radiant enough to outshine even starstuff.
Beginning as a children's adventure novel in 2004, "Peter and the Starcatcher" tells the story of how a friendless orphan boy became the heroic mischief-maker Peter Pan. Nominated for nine Tony Awards, the 2012 Broadway production combined all the whimsy of J. M. Barrie's original story with winking references and genuine warmth to create a heartfelt comedy suitable for all ages. Aboard the H.M.S. Neverland, we travel alongside Peter, his orphan friends, and Molly Aster, a Starcatcher's apprentice, as they attempt to protect a trunk filled with magical starstuff on a mission from Queen Victoria (God save her!). Confronted by a deadly storm, pursued by fearsome pirates, and serenaded by not-so-lovely mermaids, chaos ensues when their ship wrecks upon a desert island, leaving it to them to complete the mission and save the British empire.
Cooper Josties starred as the eponymous Peter, transforming from a closed-off, nameless orphan who longed for home into a bona-fide hero, confident in his own right. Josties's palpable joy was utterly infectious as he embodied a young boy, awkward at times and unflappable at others. He showcased endearing vulnerability especially when paired with Kelly De Angioletti's vivaciously funny Molly Aster, a precocious girl unafraid of a little competition. De Angioletti's self-assuredness clashed beautifully with Josties's diffident Peter, especially when earnestly discussing their burgeoning innocent romance.
No hero's story is complete without its villain, and Sam Barthel's wonderfully campy Black Stache filled his role with gusto. The Stache was on everyone's lips as he hilariously shattered the fourth wall, pranced about the stage, and even accidentally cut off his own hand. With his devoted right-hand, er, right-hook man Smee (Riley Steinkirchner) in tow, Barthel entertained from start to finish, even when dressed as an alluring mermaid. Other notable performances included Patrick Hensley as the insufferable Prentiss, who dreams of becoming a lawyer, and Jeronica Tran as the oft-misnamed Sanchez, who reacted to each of Stache's offbeat nicknames with increasing outrage.
Technical elements created a blank canvas for student-director Molly Klemm to work magic upon. Under Klemm's expert eye, picture frames became cabin walls, ensemble members became moving hallways, and a simple plank became a magic flight. With a set akin to a child's playground and versatile props, each new scene thoroughly piqued the imagination, transporting the audience to a familiar Neverland. Despite some lighting mishaps, the entire cast performed admirably, drawing focus when necessary using their physicality.
From swashbuckling shenanigans to moments of true friendship, "Peter and the Starcatcher" is everything one could want in an adventure. Tuscarora takes audiences past the second star to the right and straight on until morning, back to a place where to have faith is to have wings.