Peter and The Starcatcher at the Citadel Theatre: Give me time to laugh! Theatre review by GRAHAM HICKS

Peter and the Starcatcher
Citadel Theatre, Maclab Stage, Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA
April 1 – 23, 2017
Tickets - $30 and up


Call it a qualified success.

The Citadel Theatre’s version of the 2012 Broadway hit Peter and the Starcatcher is full of fun, friendliness, theatrical invention, imagination, silly puns, song, dance, vaudeville, panto, slapstick and so on.

But the show – based on a book that is another author’s prequel to the classic Peter Pan – is just too frantic, trying just too darned hard to squeeze a monster into a mere two hours.

The 14 actors each have a main character, and they all perform multiple other characters. The show dashes from scene to scene – in the first half, on board the two sailing ships the H.M.S. Neverland and H.M.S. Wasp somewhere in the late 19th Century when Britannia ruled the waves, in the second half on the mythical island that will become Neverland.

The theatrical challenge is admirable.  Director James MacDonald has great fun using everything and everyone as props.  Using just a few wooden pallets, for instance, scenes in the ships’ bowels become horribly cramped and confining. Costume designer Megan Koshka has actors racing in and out of multiple costumes, not just from seaman to pirate, but from humans to mermaids and mollusks, prawns and crocodiles. As much action happens in the aisles as on the stage!

As Wicked is to the Wizard of Oz, the plot is an imaginative and elaborate take on how Peter Pan might have become Peter Pan, and, as such, involves the ships, magic star stuff, pirates, ticking crocodiles and so on. 

It’s full of fun – and is as much about the smart-aleck, contemporary dialogue, crazy references, and happy absurdity of random mix-and-match as it is a story of how Peter Pan came to be. 

At one point, in a magnificent Citadel in-joke, Scrooge from Christmas Carol marches on the Maclab stage!

Out of the ensemble cast, Farren Timoteo is still the star - as Captain Hook (or Black Stache) before the hook, and we do find out how he hilariously became Captain Hook. 

Timoteo makes no pretense otherwise. He happily mimics Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies down to a T.  And, to the show’s general hilarity,  he gets away with it!

There’s dozens of comic cameos – Garret Ross as the lusty nanny Mrs. Bumbrake is too funny for words, Stephanie Wolfe chews on the scenery as the Fighting Prawn, Clinton Carew broadly and beautifully draws the raw Captain Bill Slank of the H.M.S. Neverland.

But the essential problem with this show remains:  It tries to do too much. It leaves no time for the audience to absorb any of its sub-themes, or even its laughs.

Bang, bang, bang – the audience was so overwhelmed by the non-stop action/drama/comedy that the standing ovation – by perhaps two-thirds of the opening-night audience - took some time to develop.

I don’t know if this show could somehow be less frantic – within the script there’s just so much to get out there on the stage. 

One is left to wonder. Is there is a more sustainable underlying rhythm to this big, boisterous show than all the rushing-about that was happening on opening night?

I just wanted more time to laugh!