Peter and the Starcatcher
Wharton Center, East Lansing
Jan. 22-26, show times at 1, 2, 6:30 & 7:30 p.m.
whartoncenter.com, (517) 353-1982
It's no secret that children are wizards capable of transforming even the most mundane objects into portals of extraordinary adventure. Building on this idea, the Peter Pan prequel, Peter and the Starcatcher, uses a minimalistic collection of everyday objects to transport audiences to a land where children and make-believe never grow old.
Starcatcher's Tony Award-winning scenic design focuses on using simple items in unique ways. A central prop is a length of rope that comes to represent such diverse items as a ship's hull, a staircase, a door and waves. A yellow glove becomes a bird, flashlights become stars and pennants become a crocodile's jaws. Together, these innovations provide the sense of frolicking childishness that is at the core of the Peter Pan story.
"The cool thing about Peter and the Starcatcher is the sense of play," said Joey DeBettencourt, who plays Boy (Peter Pan). "The aesthetic of [Starcatcher] is 'found' objects. If kids are doing a swordfight, they don't do it with swords, they do it with rolling pins. For the pirate scene we have a plunger, a table leg and a rolling pin."
The play also uses its 12-actor cast in surprising ways. Actors not only represent various objects onstage, but also bring to life more than 100 distinct characters, each with his or her own nuanced personality.
Despite a relatively limited number of actors and props, Starcatcher is not without lavish design elements. The stage's proscenium is made of an elaborate collection of trinkets and bottle caps, while the mermaid scene features a striking backdrop and glitzy, golden fans.
"[The show is] a really cool blend of imaginative low-tech theater, but also really amazing scenic designs," DeBettencourt said.
As far as the story goes, Starcatcher answers every question a Pan fan might have. We learn how Peter ended up in Neverland, where pixie dust came from and why that crocodile makes that darned ticking noise. We also see the evolution of one of children's literature's most beloved characters.
"The big thing about this show is that it is the prequel to the story everyone knows and loves," DeBettencourt said. "Peter starts out not as a hero or a leader, but as an orphan. ... It's a cool story of how through people like the Molly character, he becomes a leader and becomes a hero."
Despite its natural appeal to younger audiences, Starcatcher's witty humor and nostalgic reflection on childhood is endearing to adults as well. The show's target audience is theatergoers ages ten and older.
"[Starcatcher] really captures [adults'] imaginations because adults remember what it was like to be a kid," DeBettencourt said. "It's an extremely cool and unique show. When I first saw it, I thought it was so amazing and fun and different. You don't see something like this on Broadway everyday."
Other Performing Arts Events
York Arena Theatre, Kalamazoo
Jan. 23-25, 30-31, Feb. 1-2; show times at 2 & 8 p.m.
$10-20, WMU students $5
wmich.edu/theatre, (269) 387-6222
Written by noteworthy female playwrights, this documentary draws on interviews of seven fighters for women's equality. Hailing from countries as diverse as Northern Ireland and Pakistan, the protagonists share the same triumphant story of overcoming obstacles for women's empowerment. Provocative and unflinching, this play is recommended for mature audiences.
Into the Woods
Kalamazoo Civic Theatre
Parish Theatre, Kalamazoo
Jan. 24-26, 30-31, Feb. 1, 2, 7, 8; show times at 2 & 7:30 p.m.
kzoocivic.com, (269) 343-1313
A fanciful weaving together of Grimm's fairytales, this Tony Award-winning hit puts a special twist on familiar characters. When a baker and his wife set out to collect items to appease an evil witch, they encounter storybook legends such as Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Cinderella. In this story, however, 'happily ever after' is not a guarantee. Characters must deal with surprising consequences when it turns out their well-known adventures are not yet case-closed.
Miller Auditorium, Kalamazoo
Jan. 8, 7:30 p.m.
millerauditorium.com, (269) 387-2300
Delighting audiences for nearly 50 years, Hello, Dolly! has earned 10 Tony Awards and a permanent place of honor in the Broadway songbook. Played by Emmy-winner Sally Struthers, Dolly is an incorrigible matchmaker determined to help others find romance. When Dolly falls for the very man she is trying to setup, elaborate schemes run rampant and show-stopping numbers abound. Ultimately it takes a late-night restaurant fiasco and a hilarious trip to court before the course of true love has a chance of running smooth.