The story of Peter Pan may be fairly ubiquitous at this point. We’ve even seen what may have come after Peter grew up courtesy of a “bangarang” screaming Robin Williams, and we know the inspiration for the play courtesy of Johnny Depp finding his way to Neverland. But do you know what happened before Peter lost his shadow, found his name and came to Neverland?
Well, Moorestown High School is here to fill you in. Its upcoming production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” reimagines the classic story by giving a new backstory to the iconic characters. A poor, orphaned soul lost at sea known only as “Boy” meets Molly, the story’s heroine who is on a mission to save the world and protect a magical treasure trunk from the evil pirate Black Stache. Along the way, they encounter pirates, jungle tyrants and a variety of other colorful characters.
Erica Scanlon Harr, the production’s director, said the show has been on their running list of shows for a while now, and this fall just felt like the right time. She said she and her husband, Greg Harr, first saw the production on Broadway about seven years ago, but it feels apropos about having high school students perform this particular piece that explores the themes of youth and growing up.
“You’re watching young people in a period of their life that can feel like forever, but it really is so fleeting,” Scanlon Harr said. “We feel privileged to be part of this [period] of their lives.”
The show draws heavily on ensemble work and a bit of creativity. Actors sway back and forth to simulate waves or use ropes to create doorways. While there are a few songs, the piece is most definitely a play and not a musical, which is a rarity to see these days, according to Scanlon Harr. She said the show really calls for the students to push themselves as actors and to explore storytelling.
Freshman Anna Rozelle, who plays Molly, said the show is different than any she’s acted in previously. She said the show strikes the right balance between comedic, action-packed and heartfelt moments.
“The cast really works as a unit; everyone is on stage pretty much all of the time, and the whole cast has to constantly be working together to make the show work,” Rozelle said.
Rozelle said she’s previously only acted in musicals, so this part presented a new challenge.
Molly is a really precocious, witty, (sometimes obnoxious) 13 year old, who, unlike Peter and the rest of the boys, has a very loving home environment. Throughout the show, she grows up and forms a maternal relationship toward Peter and the other boys.
Senior Griffin O’Neill said his character, “Boy,” starts out in a very different place than Molly. “Boy,” who later becomes Peter, is a friendless orphan with no name and a hatred toward adults. He makes an instant connection with Molly and starts to let his guard down around her. His journey with Molly allows him to open up and eventually become the leader of the group.
“’Peter and the Starcatcher’ is funny, heartwarming and wildly theatrical,” O’Neill said. “It features the power of friendship and young love.”
Fellow senior Nicholas Williams echoed the sentiment, He said, despite the simplicity of the set, the show is complex in the array of emotions and theme. Williams plays the show’s villain, Black Stache, who later becomes Captain Hook. He said Black Stache often breaks up the mood when he walks into a scene. Williams said the most challenging part of the show (apart from the British accents) has been getting to know the characters and how they interplay with one another.
Williams said, in his eyes, the show is something people of any age could relate to and enjoy.
“The biggest part of this is growing up since it’s about Peter Pan,” Williams said. “I think it’s really important in the high school setting – learning how you just have to just live in the moment and take your time to grow up because it goes by very quickly.”
Play-goers can see the production in the Moorestown High School auditorium on Thursday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the door or online at http://moorestownhstheater.weebly.com.