Communique: "Peter and the Starcatcher" Onstage | How A Nameless Orphan Became Peter Pan

Aug 30, 2017

You know the story of Peter Pan-Wendy, Captain Hook, Tinkerbell, the crocodile, and all the rest...but you may not know how the story began. Opera House Theatre Company presents a play that will answer all your curiosities: Peter and the Starcatcher, adapted from the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (definitely a comedy). The show won 5 Tony Awards (and a heap of other awards) after its premiere in 2011. 

Performances run Wednesday, August 30-Sunday, September 10 at Thalian Hall at 8:00 pm, except Sundays, which are at 3:00pm. Tickets are available at Thalian Hall Box Office, online, or by telephone: 910-632-2285. 

I spoke with two actors from the show, Jeff Phillips (Black Stache/Captain Hook) and Joe Basquill (the nameless orphan/Peter). Listen above or read the extended transcript (and see cast photos) below. A full cast list is at the end.

Randy Davis (Smee) & Jeff Phillips (Black Stache)
Credit Erik Maasch

Gina: This has never been produced here in Wilmington.

Jeff: Correct. It's a play that opened on Broadway in 2012 and it's based on the 2004 children's book series Peter and the Star Catchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson and then was adapted for the stage.

 

Gina: And this is not a musical.

Joe: Well, it's a play with music. It's not a musical.

Jeff: There's there's a lot of musical interludes but overall it's a play with music. Jeff: And there are some songs that sort of helped push along some of the comedic elements of the show.

Gina: And it's it's funny, I'm sure. When I saw Dave Barry is one of the playwrights...

 

Jeff: It's hysterical. It's in that sort of old grand vaudevillian style where you have everyone onstage at the same time, you have people playing different parts. You have people playing inanimate objects. We play doors. We play stairs. He plays my footstool at one point in time. Joe Basquill does a mirror. Plays my reflection at one point. And we're on stage I guess 85 percent of the time. All of us together.

Sam Robison, Emilia Torello, George Domby
Credit Erik Maasch

Gina: It's 12 actors playing like 100 roles. I love the energy of that kind of show.

Joe: It's nonstop it's everybody's just doing something.

Jeff: Well, it's a great pace and it's one of the things I enjoy. One of the reasons I wanted to do the show and audition for the show was because of the ensemble aspect of it because oftentimes you don't have the opportunity...if you do a big musical, you're either the leading player or the supporting player, and then maybe you're doing an ensemble role, but there's not this opportunity oftentimes to do a major ensemble piece on the main stage much anymore. So it's fun to be on stage with people who want to play, who come prepared, and have a good time. And I think that energy is going to translate to the audience who are going to be very excited about it because they know the story. They may not know this back story, this prequel idea. Peter and the lost boys and Captain Hook. But they're familiar with the characters enough to where they're going to be immediately be able to jump into the idea.

Gina: And so let's let's talk about that backstory thing, and Jeff I say you are called Black Stache.

 

Jeff: Correct.

 

Heather Setzler & Jamey Stone
Credit Erik Maasch

Gina: But I'm assuming you're Captain Hook. 

 

Jeff: I am the Captain Hook. When I when I read the play initially-immediately I went back to the Gregory McGuire novels, the story of the Wicked Witch of the West and sort of how that became Wicked The Musical. And so what we have is this back story-or maybe this or the origin story of these characters, how Peter becomes Peter Pan, how Black Stache becomes Captain Hook. We get to see things such as where does Michael Darling's top hat originate from. So you discover all those small things throughout the piece and that just really makes it makes it fun. And you think it fleshes out the JM Barrie story even more because you sort of have this anchor or baseline to attach to.

Gina: And Joe you are playing the orphan with no name. I mean I'm going to guess...

 

Joe: He gets a name, he get he does get a name. So in the beginning he's just, you can't really tell who he is because he's such a quiet, he's been in such a terrible position. And then this thing happens, and I don't want to spoil anything, but he meets somebody and she, Molly Astor, really changes his life. And he goes on adventures and becomes this kid who just loves adventure, he loves doing things, he's active, he wants to be a part of everything. He wants to have a family. And in the end you know he gets that family.

Jeff: It's really I think, for that character, it's a coming of age story. It's about how a boy comes into his own extraordinariness -if that's even a word-I make it up-he really sort of takes hold of being extraordinary and it doesn't mean that he's the most famous or the wealthiest. It just means that he really starts to accept who he is in that moment.

And then with all the good the bad the indifferent, becomes who he has always dreamed of being. At least for that moment.

(Clockwise) Emilia Torello, Jordan Wolfe, Eddie Waters, Kennie Rosander
Credit Erik Maasch

Gina: Joe, I'm wondering what this experience is like compared to your other theatrical experiences.

Joe: Well yes so I've always acted since I was a young kid, 9 or 10, and we start out in TACT, which is you know mostly musicals. And then I grew up, I went to school up in New York and I changed a lot of things. I came back here and what I really wanted to do was as many things that are different. And this, when I read the script, I was like whoa, I've never read anything like this before, and it was just it was it was fantastic and then when we started doing it it was just 12 people who are extremely talented doing tons different stuff. You know, making the set themselves onstage and really dressing the whole stage and I thought that was just awesome.

And it's it's been it's been enlightening if anything.

Gina: And you just said making the set. You mean like literally in front of the audience?

Joe: Yes so we use little pieces of you know material, but the people who pretty much dress the set is you know the ensemble, or every character. We stand in a line to make a doorway or a hallway, or we hold a rope and that makes staircases, and it's it's pretty cool.

Gina: I know this is not a musical, but this is a play with music. What are some standout songs? I'm sure you're singing, Jeff.

Jeff: I am singing in it. I think the Act II opener will be a stand out. I can't remember the exact name. I'll call it the mermaid song. And so you sort of get to see the effects of star stuff and what it may do to people unexpectedly. And so I think that will be a really fun sort of over-the-top campy song. That's a really wonderful way to open Act II bring out bring people back into the humor of it before you proceed on with the story. But it actually plays into the story further down the road as well. So there are some underscoring there are some chants to be heard. George Domby is in the show and carries a lot, the lullaby aspects of it and sings that particular refrain throughout the show and does a beautiful, beautiful job. But it's bits of music here and there there's really only two big numbers in the show, and one closes Act I and one opens Act II.

Gina: Who's going to like this show?

Jeff: I think everyone's going to like it. I think it's certainly a show that adults will enjoy. They'll get the humor, they'll understand that Dave Barry aspect of the humor and maybe the innuendo of it. Children are going to love it because it's some of their favorite characters coming to life or maybe discovering how Tinkerbell becomes Tinkerbell originally, or how the croc becomes the killer croc with the ticking in his belly. But I do think it is a show for everyone and I encourage everyone to come see it. I really do want to point out Joe's performance-I think he's giving a really wonderful performance. Emilia Torello is our female lead. She is a senior in high school and they're carrying the show and they're doing a really, really, really beautiful job through that, and you'll see some other people that you'll recognize. Sam Robeson's in it. Randy Davis plays Smee. Heather Setzler's in it. Marlon Ramos is in it. Jamie Stone, Eddie Waters, Jordan Wolfe, Kennie Rosander, and I think it's going to create a comfort level because you know that some of these people up there. You've seen them, so it just allows you to settle into the story. And I'm just excited that Opera House Theater Company, who is producing the show, took time and the initiative and the risk to do this show. We don't see a lot of plays on main stage much anymore.

Gina: Oh I know, very rarely. And it's always a risk when you do a show that people don't know that's not already established.

Jeff: And Peter and the Starcatcher is the most Tony nominated new American play in Broadway history, and it won five of the Tonys in 2012. So it's it's a sharp, funny, touching script. I think you'll be laughing. I have to prevent myself get a little teary eyed at the end because it really wraps up so sweetly and lovingly.

Joe: It hits on all cylinders. It really does.

Jeff: Jason Aycock's directing. I want to mention him and the great job that he's doing. Selena and Julie Harvey have done the costumes. Terry Collins is doing the set. Lorene Walsh is doing the music and it's really just Lorene and Lorene will be in one opera box and the percussionist will be in the opposite opera box. So you get to see everything. Oftentimes, I'll come out and do a curtain speech for a show and on a preview night, I'll say, well if anything goes wrong we're going to stop and then you get to see all the magic behind the scenes.

Well, this is--you get see all the magic behind the scenes.

Gina: I didn't realize Jason was directing it, but of course he should be directing it.

Jeff: He's done a lovely job.

Gina: He's such a playful person and I can only imagine what he brought to it.
 

The Cast:

Joseph Basquill (Orphan with no name)

Kenneth Rosander (Ted)

Eddie Waters (Prentiss)

Sam Robison (Lord Aster)

Emilia Torello (Molly Aster)

George Domby (Mrs. Brumbrake)

Heather Setzler (Bill Slank)

Jordan Wolfe (Alf)

Marlon Ramos (Robert Scott)

Jamey Stone (Fighting Prawn)

Jeff Phillips (Black Stache)

Randy Davis (Smee)

The ensemble plays dozens of other roles as well.