Now and then, but not often, a theatre goer experiences theatre that is THEATRE. Not theatre that tries to be film or television, but theatre that has the audacity to be theatrical. Theatre wherein the actor looks the witness in the eye and says, "I know you know I'm an actor, and I know you're sitting there experiencing this with me. I know you see the lights and the seams in the muslin walls and the painted wood grain on the scenery. And I feel your heartbeat, and we're all breathing this air together."
That's when the magic happens.
Brelby Theatre Company's tenacious production of Peter and the Starcatcher is a delightfully muscular evening's entertainment. An endearing prequel to JM Barrie's classic, Peter and the Starcatcher is a tale of two ships where we meet Wendy's mother as an adolescent who, we learn, knew Peter before he was Pan. We encounter star stuff and mermaids and pirates and Captain before he was Hook. We meet lost boys and pirates and mystifyingly Italian island-dwellers, flatulent ship's crew smitten with a nanny who changes the scenery and sings like an angel. We meet a Victorian Lord who has secrets and a young, skinny Smee.
The ensemble moves fluidly though Louis Farber's clever, temerarious staging as if they were born to it.
At the heart of the show is The Boy (later, Peter) played by the deliciously interesting Alex Tuchi, always present and multi-dimensional.
Shelby Maticic is a steadfast, ambitious Molly, the earnest, 13 year-old heroine of the story. Her acting is flawless, as she draws us into her complicated emotional moments. She is bright, funny and a joy to watch.
As Black Stache, Brian Maticic is a feast. His physicality is tremendous, as are his voice and bright, expressive face. He is hilarious and charming, worthy of Alan Rickman's quintessential Sheriff of Nottingham. It's impossible not to love him.
John Perovich's Lord Astor has a large, comfortingly refined presence. Perovich knows his craft and gives every moment its due. We miss him when he's not in a scene.
Connor Wanless is a fun, giddy Smee and Cliff Williams and Jon Gradilla are outstanding as Peter's orphan sidekicks. Luke Gomez has a commanding voice and demeanor, and is extremely watchable in his several roles. Stephanie Spencer is too young for Mrs. Bumbrake, but she is lovely and talented and shines in a cameo as a shimmering mermaid. Clayton Caufman plays a rough Alf, convincingly devoted to Mrs. Bumbrake. Amber Wright and Elizabeth Lyon play men with Monty Python-level silliness, and Jared Queen is an ensemble player who stands out - young and virtuosic.
Louis Farber sets a breathtaking tempo - we are grateful for the one still, quiet scene in the second act - and his cast is up to the challenge. Musical director and pianist CJ O'Hara is masterful.
Peter and the Starcatcher runs through February 12, and is suitable for all audiences. There were a slew of children in the house when I saw the show, and they laughed and cheered all the way through.