Karl Hugh, Utah Shakespeare Festival
"PETER AND THE STARCATCHER," Utah Shakespeare Festival, through Oct. 18, 800-752-9849 or www.bard.org
CEDAR CITY — The don't-miss show at this year's Utah Shakespeare Festival is the regional premiere of "Peter and the Starcatcher," a new play that won five Tony Awards in 2012.
Written by Rick Elice, "Peter" is based on the book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and watching it unfold is pure delight.
It's a bit of a prequel, if you will, to the "Peter Pan" we all know and love. So just how did Peter get to be Peter? Who is Wendy? Why does that crocodile tick?
Those questions and more are answered as the ensemble cast takes the audience from one theatrical turn to another. Festival artistic director and play director Brian Vaughn crafted a visual, engaging and very imaginative retelling of Peter, his lost boys and the girl who changed them.
Plus, it's just a whole lot of fun! Great one-liners, frequent modern-day references, gags and puns are balanced by a story with messages of hope, belonging, not growing up and finding a home.
The standout performance of the production is Quinn Mattfeld as The Black Stache. His physical comedy, great facial expressions and swagger endear him instantly to the audience. He's engaging and delightfully funny, playing well off the rest of the cast, especially Aaron Galligan-Stierle as Smee.
Betsy Mugavero is wonderful as Molly, the young lady who comes along and sparks the imagination of Peter — played with a nice amount of disdain and hope by Rhett Guter. And Matt Mueller does a terrific job playing multiple characters.
The whole cast is solid, leaving one to marvel at the theatrical storytelling devices the play utilizes. A fantastical set by Jo Winiarski allows the stage to serve as many different locations. Jaymi Lee Smith's lighting design adds nicely, as do Kevin Copenhaver's costumes.
And big kudos to Barry G. Funderburg's sound design and to the two men, Samuel Clein and Jonathan Nathan, above the stage as both orchestra/foley of sorts, creating all the sounds for the adventure down below.
Though based on a book and a familiar and beloved character, "Peter and the Starcatcher" feels as fresh as anything seen on stage in quite a while. Let your imagination go to question what happens if you just believe.
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