Youthful ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ is great fun at Gaithersburg Arts Barn

The Montgomery Playhouse production proves what can be accomplished with imagination, moxie, and a lot of heart.

Like Peter, the Peter Pan tale just never gets old, and there are so many ways to enjoy it. Peter and the Starcatcher is a kind of prequel to introduce the characters and their journeys. Just when you thought you knew all you could possibly know about the guy, he’s a gift that just keeps giving, and the Montgomery Playhouse production does justice to the myth and legend with great fun.

This story is about how a nameless orphan became the immortal Peter Pan. For the first half of this reimagined tale, No Name, played with appeal and charm by Kyle Hermary, is finding his way through life’s adventures and distinctly dislikes grownups. There are flashbacks to the wretched Dickensian conditions in the orphanage that shaped his view on life, his escape to a wayfaring ship, and how he becomes Peter Pan in a new land. The show involves steamer trunks, shipwrecks, and cargo of mysterious “star stuff” that eventually keeps Peter in his perpetual youthful state. But he has to survive the clutches of life first and learn valuable life lessons along the way.

Tom Schiller, Ron Ward, Jimmy Schwartzman, Carmel Lindsay-Broder, John Van Eck, Kyle Hermary as Boy/Peter, John Lynch, Andrew Harasty, Rebecca Korn, and Cor Estoll in ‘Peter and the Starcatcher.’ Photo by Cassandra Redding.

Director Naomi Kieval moves the relatively large cast along the stage with ease, including the youth ensemble. At several points, the characters drift in waves of fabric gleefully maneuvered by the eager youngsters. The full ensemble puts on a jolly good show with urgent salutations when there is even the slightest reference to Her Highness Queen Victoria.

Rebecca Korn is a plucky no-nonsense Molly as she tends to her charge of Lost Boys like a school marm taking Peter under her wing. Ron Ward is a hoot as the Pirate Black Stache, sashaying and cavorting in splendid regalia, costumes by Jennifer Georgia, with the largest feathered plume in his hat screeching excess. Jill Vanderweit as upper-crust Mrs. Bumbrake and Andrew Harasty a rather foul-smelling Smee somehow made a match and form the cutest bond in all their pop-up segments.

In escaping one escapade only to plunge into another, Peter and fellow characters find themselves washed ashore on an island filled with, ahem, “mermaids,” who have to be seen to be believed. Costume designer Georgia went overboard in creating the sparkly green grass skirts representing the beautifully clad buxom sea creatures, original gender be damned. Director Kieval keeps the fun frolicking and cascading jokes with rapid-fire rendition. The story progresses through good old-fashioned narrative, great delivery, and lots of imagination as both Peter and Molly discover their place in life and in each other’s heart.

TOP: Andrew Harasty as Smee and Ron Ward as Black Stache; ABOVE: Evie Bacon, Rebecca Korn as Molly, Kyler Hermary as Boy/Peter, Avery Morstan as Captain Slank, and Elizabeth Boro, in ‘Peter and the Starcatcher.’ Photos by Cassandra Redding.

The set design and dressing by Cassandra Redding is a raised platform near the back for additional elevation and an assortment of ropes to simulate rigging as needed. Lighting by Andrew Harasty is remarkably effective for the space and bathes each scene in hues that fit the action to a tee.

Music by Maury Peiperl opens with the rocking hits of the 1970s and ’80s interspersed with historical styles for a full-ranging musical montage hinting at the hijinks to come and a good time in the making.

Adapted by Rick Elice from Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s 2004 children’s novel, Peter and the Starcatcher is a rambunctious way of looking at something you thought you knew everything about.

The Montgomery Playhouse production of Peter and the Starcatcher tickles the funny bone and proves what can be accomplished with imagination, moxie, and a lot of heart.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission..

Peter and the Starcatcher plays through June 23, 2024, (Friday and Saturday at 8 PM; Sunday at 2 PM), presented by The Gaithersburg Arts Barn in partnership with The Montgomery Playhouse performing at the Arts Barn, 311 Kent Square Road, Gaithersburg, MD. For tickets ($22; $20, students 15–21; $15 youth, 14 and under), buy them at the door or purchase them online. Online ticket sales end two hours prior to the performance. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Arts Barn box office or by contacting the Arts Barn (301-258-6394).

Recommended for ages 8 & up.

Peter and the Starcatcher
A Play by Rick Elice
Based on the Novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Instrumental Score/Music by Wayne Barker

CAST
Orphans – Kyle Hermary, John Lynch, Jimmy Schwartzman
British Subjects – Cor Estoll, Rebecca Korn, Jill Vanderweit, Tom Schiller, Jay Thaiyod
Seafarers – Avery Morstan, John Van Eck, Carmel Lindsay-Broder, Ron Ward, Andrew Harasty, Carlos Espinoza Condori
Islanders – Carmel Lindsay-Broder, Reed Lang/Hope Hurst (6/21-23), Aliza Graber
Youth Ensemble

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Director: Naomi Kieval
Producer & Set Design: Cassandra Redding
Dance Choreography: Vanessa Markowitz, Naomi Kieval
Costumer: Jennifer Georgia
Lighting Design: Andrew Harasty
Sound Design: Aaron Skolnik
Music Direction: Maury Peiperl
Stage Manager: Deanna Kinzie

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