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Peter and the Starcatcher

J.M. Barrie's classic story gets an hysterical prequel, rich with charm and energy

Kyle Sinclair shines in a flamboyant performance as the proto-Captain Hook. Photo credit: Tim Johnston

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Peter Pan: the boy who never grew up, who learned to fly, who valued the power of imagination and a sense of wonder over trivial matters like responsibility and adulthood -- this is a character that's become so familiar to generations of audiences, hopping from literature to theater to film and television, that his myth is ripe for new interpretations, removed from J.M. Barrie's initial vision for Peter. Hook, for instance, portrayed Peter as a man who'd lost his innocence on the way to mediocre middle-management.

Peter and the Starcatcher takes a similar approach, but from the other side, imagining the journey that it took for an unnamed orphan to find his way to a mysterious island, and to find his life as the eternally youthful Peter Pan. Originally a 2004 novel, written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Starcatcher was adapted into a Tony award-winning stage play by Rick Elice. As produced by Lakewood Playhouse, with direction by John Munn, Peter and the Starcatcher is a show of boundless charm and energy, combining the subverted fairy tale vibe of A Series of Unfortunate Events with the elasticity and the wry self-awareness of Monty Python, all anchored by an astounding ensemble.

Two ships set out from the shores of Great Britain, on their way to the island of Rundoon. Dispersed amongst these two ships are three orphan boys (Emily Cohen, Gunner Ray and Parker Dean), well-to-do young woman Molly Aster (McKenna Sanford), her patriotic father (James Wrede), and a rogue's gallery of pirates and ne'er-do-wells, including classic Peter Pan villains Smee (Chap Wolff) and the future Captain Hook, now known as Black Stache (Kyle Sinclair). Cohen, continuing the tradition of women playing the part of Pan, is striking as the future adventurer, but Peter mostly takes a backseat to the true hero of the story, Molly, who frequently saves the necks of her fellow travelers.

Eventually, the crew arrives at the island that will one day be called Neverland, which is when the gears of sublime absurdity start to work overtime. While Peter and the Starcatcher has designs on telling an origin story, what it really excels at is being a supremely silly, often hilarious show. Emotional moments, such as Peter's tentative relationship with Molly, play just fine, but they're overshadowed by rapid-fire wordplay and elaborate comic set pieces (like a showstopping musical number involving mermaids). Sinclair steals the show as the lanky, foppish Black Stache, his physicality and impeccable timing elevating the cartoonish feel of the play. The younger cast, including the orphan boys and Molly, do a uniformly fantastic job, standing toe-to-toe with a group of local theater stalwarts (including standouts Martin Larson, as Molly's caretaker Mrs. Bumbrake, and Wolff as the perfect kiss-ass, Smee).

With the entire cast acting as chorus, narrating us through what can be a frantic and unwieldy story (which may lose some very young audience members), this feels like the unfolding of a new, offbeat mythology for a beloved character -- and a very funny one, at that.

PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, 8 p.m., Friday-Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through April 22, $20-$26, Pay What You Can Thursdays, 8 p.m., April 5 and 12, Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd. SW, Lakewood, 253.588.0042,

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