Neverland Holiday, Part 1: Peter and the Starcatcher
Classic retellings are all the rage. St. Pete’s freeFall offers its own vintage double delight this winter.
Peter Pan and its comedic, anachronous backstory, Peter and the Starcatcher, are being featured in repertory at the multiple award-winning freeFall Theatre through January 29. The shows opened in mid-December to glowing reviews.
Unlike the adaptations to screen, Starcatcher brandishes no special effects. Just good old-fashioned imagination — so much so, the actors even double as doors and other props by using pantomime.
The 2009 play, which takes on two ships, shows how Peter and the Lost Boys learned to fly and Black Stache became Captain Hook. It’s adorably and deliberately homespun and absent of any technology right down to the array of musical instruments providing the clever sound effects. Its backdrop: a patchwork of white shirts, and when a giant crocodile appears, white banners and red lanterns cleverly mimic its gaping visage.
Essentially the same actors appear in both Peter Pan shows; first-rate talent on par with those aforementioned A-listers. (freeFall, in case you’re unfamiliar, is a professional theater that hires Equity actors and other established performers.)
Inspired by imagined events leading up to J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy, Starcatcher is enchantingly silly, amusing audiences all ages with “a little swash and a little buckle.”
At the center of it all is a fierce, intelligent and amiable heroine named Molly Aster (played wonderfully by Marissa Toogood). She, for the most part, outshines “The Boy” (Tyler Simmons) whose persona is still a work in progress.
The play’s source material derives from the 2006 novel Peter and the Starcatchers by legendary humor columnist Dave Barry and kids-books/thriller author Ridley Pearson. Starcatcher is blessed with some added musical numbers and Vaudevillian stage tropes by playwright Rick Elice, who adapted the story in 2009, offering the requisite Victorian ribaldry and contemporary yuks.
Not to give out a spoiler — well, maybe a few fins, actually — but there’s a memorable Busbee Berklee-inspired musical number that kicks off Act II with a hilarious splash.
Scene-stealer and Carbonell winner Chris Crawford portrays Black Stache and delivers some of the funniest lines in the play. He’s part Paul Lynde and part Errol Flynn. Michael Raabe returns as musical director, arranger, composer and pianist with Burt Rushing on a nifty assortment of percussion instruments. Their sound effects enhance the mood superbly, whether twinkly enchantment or fumbling foppery.
In previous years, freeFall staged an annual musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol classic each holiday season but decided to go in a different direction this year — a decision that’s been both delightful and a breath of fresh air amid so much of the same ol’ same ol’ entertainment this season.
And while not freeFall’s intention, the Peter Pan shows could also be viewed as a snub to the “Merry Christmas” mafia dictating how we salute the season.
Whatever your holiday greeting preference, Peter and the Starcatcher makes for a fun family outing during Christmas break — an exhilarating, feel-good alternative to holiday retreads like A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker.
Some Pertinent Details
Peter Pan and Peter and the Starcatcher run on alternating evenings Wednesday-Sunday (except Christmas Day) through Jan. 29 at Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Attend a 10 p.m. “talkback” with the cast and director after the Dec. 23 evening performance of Peter Pan.
Other special presentations include a London New Year’s Eve celebration on Dec. 31 at 4 p.m., which invites all to join the cast of Peter for a family-friendly celebration ringing in the New Year. The event promises” refreshments and sparkling toasts for both young and young-at-heart, plus a few surprises.”
Warning: Showtimes can be confusing. Here are the upcoming shows, dates, times and prices provided by freeFall:
Wednesday, Dec. 21 7 p.m. $37 Pan
Thursday, Dec. 22 matinee 2 p.m. $47 Pan
Thursday, Dec. 22 7 p.m. $47 Starcatcher
Friday, Dec. 23 matinee 2 p.m. $47 Starcatcher
Friday, Dec. 23 8 p.m. $52 Pan
Saturday, Dec. 24 matinee 2 p.m. $37 Starcatcher
Monday, Dec. 26 7 p.m. $47 Starcatcher
Tuesday, Dec. 27 7 p.m. $47 Pan
Wednesday, Dec. 28 matinee 2 p.m. $47 Starcatcher
Wednesday, Dec. 28 7 p.m. $37 Pan
Thursday, Dec. 29 2 p.m. $47 Pan
Thursday, Dec. 29 7 p.m. $47 Starcatcher
Sunday, Jan. 1 matinee 2 p.m. $47 Pan
Wednesday, Jan. 4 7 p.m. $37 Pan
Thursday, Jan. 5 7 p.m. $47 Starcatcher
Friday, Jan. 6 8 p.m. $52 Pan
Saturday, Jan. 7 matinee 2 p.m. $37 Starcatcher
Saturday, Jan. 7 8 p.m. $52 Pan
Sunday, Jan. 8 matinee 2 p.m. $47 Starcatcher
Wednesday, Jan. 11 7 p.m. $37 Starcatcher
Thursday, Jan. 12 7 p.m. $47 Pan
Friday, Jan. 13 8 p.m. $52 Starcatcher
Saturday, Jan. 14 matinee 2 p.m. $37 Pan
Saturday, Jan. 14 8 p.m. $52 Starcatcher
Sunday, Jan. 15 matinee 2 p.m. $47 Pan
Wednesday, Jan. 18 7 p.m. $37 Pan
Thursday, Jan. 19 7 p.m. $47 Starcatcher
Friday, Jan. 20 8 p.m. $52 Pan
Saturday, Jan. 21 matinee 2 p.m. $37 Starcatcher
Saturday, Jan. 21 8 p.m. $52 Pan
Sunday, Jan. 22 matinee 2 p.m. $47 Starcatcher
Wednesday, Jan. 25 7 p.m. $37 Starcatcher
Thursday, Jan. 26 7 p.m. $47 Pan
Friday, Jan. 27 8 p.m. $52 Starcatcher
Saturday, Jan. 28 matinee 2 p.m. $37 Pan
Saturday, Jan. 28 8 p.m. $52 Starcatcher
Sunday, Jan. 29 matinee 2 p.m. $47 Pan