"PETER AND THE STARCATCHER," through Dec. 20, Pioneer Theatre Company, 300 S. 1400 East (801-581-6961 or pioneertheatre.org); running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes (one intermission)
Before Wendy, there was Molly.
Before he lost his hand, Captain Hook was Black Stache.
Before Peter Pan had a name, he was a trembling orphan known as Boy.
And before every treasured tale begins, there is another story to be told.
“Peter and the Starcatcher,” Pioneer Theatre Company’s latest production, is a fresh and funny spin on J.M. Barrie’s classic. It shares the backstory of Peter Pan: how he became unflappable, why he lived in Neverland, how Tinker Bell became his sidekick and why he stepped foot in the Darling children’s room.
But the witty prequel, which won five Tony Awards in 2012, is much more than a story about the boy who lived forever. It takes audiences into a fantastical world of pirates, treasure and mannish mermaids and is filled with fast-paced banter, requiring concentration typically reserved for a Shakespeare play or an episode of “Gilmore Girls.”
The heroine, Molly Astar, is just as central to the story as Peter Pan. Molly, played by Justine Salata, is a know-it-all who finds herself protecting a trunk filled with a magical substance called starstuff from a group of pirates. Molly is an apprentice starcatcher, a select group appointed by the queen to guard the powerful starstuff.
Molly takes Peter, played by Liam Forde, and two other orphans, food-obsessed Ted and power-hungry Prentiss, under her wing as they determine to keep the starstuff safe. Throughout their adventures, they survive a capsized ship, escape a crocodile cage and repeatedly outsmart their nemeses.
Molly is accompanied by her proper British nanny, Mrs. Bumbrake, hilariously portrayed by Oliver Wadsworth. Mrs. Bumbrake, however, is distracted from her tending duties by Alf, a flirtatious and flatulent sailor, played by Redge Palmer.
The most colorful character of the show is Black Stache, who is full of malapropisms — and himself. He is obsessed with his “facial foliage” and with the trunk of starstuff, but in the end, the only things Black Stache is able to steal are the scenes. Played by Leo Ash Evens, Black Stache provides a constant stream of giggles with his one-liners and melodrama.
Thoughtful dialogue and quirky characters make “Peter and the Starcatcher” a poignant albeit childish production, reminding audiences that “once upon a time” is rarely the beginning.
Content advisory: Some potty humor and double entendres, a couple short violent scenes and one swear word.
Emily Edmonds is an online communications instructor for BYU-Idaho. She is the former editor of BYU's Marriott Alumni Magazine and contributes to Family Circle magazine. She has a bachelor's in journalism and a master's in communications from BYU.