Peter and the Starcatcher: Being a boy, forever

Luke Smith and John Sanders in the <i>Peter and the Starcatcher.</i>

Luke Smith and John Sanders in the Peter and the Starcatcher.

While the performers represented in the show's title are certainly fine, they aren't the main attraction of Peter and the Starcatcher, the touted Broadway hit playing on tour this week at the Orpheum Theatre.

No, the biggest attraction of the night is John Sanders, who steals an already madcap show with Black Stache, a pirate king by way of Groucho Marx, right down to the greasepaint mustache.

[jump] This telling of the "before" part of Peter Pan is really a delight from beginning to end, as a game company of 12 actors mix story theater and simple technical effects to tell a fully engaging story. 

The play, adapted by Rich Elice from the novel by David Barry and Ridley Pearson, has everything you may be looking for in a ripping yarn: danger at sea; lonely orphans looking to escape their fate; and a chest full of magical star stuff that can explain away the occasional moments of magic.

The play follows the early adventures of Peter before he was a magical boy. In fact, it comes before he even had a name. At the beginning of the play, he is a nameless orphan sold into slavery and shipped off to a far-flung land. On board the same ship is Molly, a bright 13-year-old girl who is also an apprentice "starcatcher." They find the magical material that falls from the sky and keep it out of evil hands.

There are also a pair of trunks, one packed with the magical material, the other with sand. There are also a pair of ships. You can guess where this is going. The madness intensifies when the pirate Black Stache makes the scene.

The company works together to tell the story, sometimes using simple props (toy boats for the Wasp and the Neverland) or just their bodies to make up the doors, walls, and other items needed. 

That doesn't mean this is a ramshackle production. The piece is tightly constructed and well paced. Joey deBettencourt and Megan Stern are engaging as the pre-Peter Boy and Molly, showcasing strong comic chops while still finding the hearts within their characters. Other standouts include Benjamin Schrader as Molly's tough-as-nails governess Mrs. Bumbrake and Luke Smith as Black Stache's suffering assistant Smee.

Which brings us back to Sanders. His manic energy dominates the entire show, coming to a glorious head near the end, when an accident with one of the cases that leads him to become Captain Hook. The character's immediate reaction of "Oh my God!" is repeated, and repeated... and repeated. As the chorus intensifies, Sanders wrings all of the comedy he can out of those three words, eventually leaving everyone in the theater exhausted... and satisfied. Just as the entire show does from beginning to end.


Peter and the Starcatcher
Through Sunday
Orpheum Theatre

910 Henepin Ave., Minneapolis

For tickets and information, call 1.800.982.2787 or visit online.