The fanciful Peter Pan play-with-music prequel “Peter and the Starcatcher” adequately closes the Victoria Theatre Association’s 2014- 15 Premier Health Broadway Series at the Schuster Center.
Sprightly adapted by Rick Elise based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, this “Starcatcher” primarily presents a unique quandary, specifically for theatergoers expecting to see the national tour of its tremendous Broadway mounting, nominated for nine Tony Awards in 2012 ultimately winning five. When the “Starcatcher” tour folded last year, the Victoria searched for a replacement version. Organizers selected a regional theater production conceived by Salt Lake City’s Pioneer Theatre Company, but the show just doesn’t have the shimmering conceptual sparkle, artistic ingenuity and emotional heft of the Broadway production, which certain patrons fondly recall to this very day.
Granted, director Jenn Thompson certainly attempts originality, but unfortunately her pacing is off-kilter in a startlingly humdrum Act 1that finds some actors having trouble projecting in the space, a crucial indication this intimate production truly belongs inside the Victoria Theatre. It’s also extremely odd Thompson allows Leo Ash Evens, who excessively portrays the villainous Black Stache (the precursor Captain Hook), to go unrealistically overboard in a defining moment late in Act 2.
Even so, there are consistently firm performances to be found here amid the fascinating, fun, ensemble-driven storytelling. The sharp, physical Rhett Guter winningly charms as the intuitive and vulnerable Boy/Peter. Justine Salata brings poise, humor and spunk to her terrifically astute portrayal of Molly, future mother of Wendy. José Restrepo (Smee), Austin Archer (Prentiss), Jake P. Evans (Ted), Jeff Gurner (Grempkin/Fighting Prawn), and Oliver Wadsworth (Mrs. Bumbrake/the mermaid Teacher) equally shine in featured comedic capacities.
Additionally, the presentation’s attractive technical elements are courtesy of scenic designer George Maxwell, costumer Carol Wells-Day, lighting designer Michael Gilliam, sound designer Joshua C. Hight, and hair/makeup designer Amanda French. Patricia Wilcox’s playful choreography and Tom Griffin’s crisp music direction suitably complement Wayne Barker’s cheery tunes.
“Starcatcher” enchants at its core due to its very engaging, “Wicked”-esque ability to present familiar lore refreshingly, particularly in its stronger Act 2 detailing the genesis of Tinkerbell and the need for a certain hook. However, when you consider the fundamental fact that the Victoria is responsible for and boasts about delivering national tours, watching an out of state regional theater showcase of this work is a disappointing predicament.
“Peter and the Starcatcher” continues through June 14 at the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Performances are Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Act One: 65 minutes; Act Two: 58 minutes. Tickets are $25-$97. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com.