reviewed by Adam Crowe

Indianapolis has an overwhelming amount of theater on its stages this Fall. It should come as no surprise that the Phoenix Theatre is opening their season with a show that was a Broadway hit not too long ago. But, the twist in this particular story is that the show in question is of the family-friendly variety. Peter and the Starcatcher, by playwright Rick Elice, with music by Wayne Barker, is based on a best-seller by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Like the book, the play lays out a fantastical back-story to explain just how an orphaned boy becomes the one and only Peter Pan.

Starcatcher tells a big story, and does so without the special effects and technological razzmatazz that so many Broadway shows often seem to insist on using. Indeed, one of the play’s strengths is that it rests almost entirely upon the storytelling skills of its cast, who play a multitude of characters. In this department, the Phoenix production has an embarrassment of riches. The cast includes most of the city’s best actors, in addition to a couple of superb out-of-towners. These actors and their impeccable story-telling take a lovely script and turn it into an evening of fully realized adventure and entertainment.

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Nathan Robbins stars as Peter in Phoenix Theatre’s “Peter and the Starcatcher”

The large cast works as a true ensemble, with Joshua Coomer, Ian Cruz, Dan Scarborough, Paul Nicely, Michael Hosp, Paul Hansen, and John Vessels, Jr. carrying much of the weight as assorted pirates, soldiers, island natives, orphanage residents and mermaids. Yes, I said Mermaids. Hosp and Vessels are especially memorable as the love-sick pirate Alf and Mrs. Bumbrake, the nanny to young Molly Astor, (played by the delightful Indy native Phoebe Taylor) who is instrumental in transforming a lost boy into Peter Pan. Nathan Robbins has turned in a series of terrific performances at the Phoenix, including starring turns in The Cripple of Inishmann and Hand to God. Here, as the boy who becomes Peter, Robbins adds another wonderful performance, making Peter’s confusion, joy and disappointments raw and real in every moment. Joining Peter are other orphaned (lost) boys, played by Peter Scarborough and Tyler Ostrander and they are Robbins’ equals in character creation and storytelling. And since there can be no Peter Pan without a Captain Hook, Eric J. Olson creates a memorable one, who starts his career as the owner of a fully foliaged lip, the Pirate Black Stache.

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Nathan Robbins as Peter and Eric J. Olson as Black Stache in Phoenix Theatre’s “Peter and the Starcatcher”

A fantastic story, told under the beautiful lighting of Jeffrey Martin, on an incredibly creative set by James Gross, Peter and the Starcatcher also features several musical interludes, brought to brilliant life by Brent Marty. Artistic Director Bryan Fonseca seems to effortlessly handle his large cast and sets them to telling this story in a sharp, but low-tech fashion. In a crowded field of theatrical options, this is a production that I cannot recommend highly enough. The Phoenix suggests the play is appropriate for ages 13 and up, but I tend to think that precocious 11 and 12 year-olds will also find it immensely enjoyable. This 53 year-old certainly did!

Peter and The Starcatcher continues its run through October 23rd. With only a short time left, I would strongly urge you to get your tickets soon. You can find out more about the performance schedule and reserve tickets by calling the Box Office at (317) 635-7529, or by going to the website at http://www.phoenixtheatre.org.

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing
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