Chris HewittPioneer Press
February 5th, 2017
I’ve seen preschools full of toddlers that didn’t have as much energy as the cast of “Peter and the Starcatcher” at Theater Latte Da.
The nine actors in the cast whiz from role to role in the show, which doesn’t have quite enough songs to be called a musical but has too many to be called a straight play.
Actually, “Peter” takes the form of an English music-hall show that makes lowbrow humor highly entertaining, deftly blending bawdy digressions, raucous jokes, outrageous anachronisms and relentless puns (“You made your bed, Pan”) into an evening of frothy fun.
Regularly busting through the fourth wall — which seems to be contagious, since they’re doing the same thing over at the Guthrie’s “The Royal Family” — the actors are members of a troupe in Victorian England who share with us a story that gradually begins to acquire familiar characters and situations.
An origins story, “Peter and the Starcatcher” is to “Peter Pan” as “Wicked” is to “The Wizard of Oz,” a fairy tale that purports to show us how another fairy tale — and beloved characters such as Peter Pan, Wendy and Captain Cook — came into being.
It’s meant to be imaginative and homespun, which means “Peter and the Starcatcher” fits perfectly in Latte Da’s cozy Ritz Theater.
Director/designer Joel Sass greets us with a gorgeously organic-looking false proscenium over a set that will be used to suggest many different places but always reveals its humble origins in ropes, wooden planks, ladders, hunks of vine and pieces of picture frames. The props, too, are imaginative, with the cast using nothing more elaborate than a whistle to suggest various animals, waves and foreign tongues.
There is wonder and magic in “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Befitting the broad material, Sass seems to have encouraged the actors to make their performances as out-sized as possible and that mostly works, with Tyler Michaels’ sweet-natured boy as the grave center of the piece.
The show asks a lot of its performers, who must summon that wonder and magic from within themselves and, on opening night, I suspect not all of the actors had reached the peaks they’ll be hitting a few performances into the “Peter” run.
But some — Michaels, the wryly amusing Andre Shoals and the gut-busting Craig Johnson — are there already. Johnson confidently morphs from a gung-ho nanny to a world-weary mermaid, among many other characters, and he’s hilarious as all of them.
If the rest of the cast catches up, this could be the sort of show where you can’t stop laughing. This occasionally airborne production is so clearly headed in the right direction that I believe it can fly.
“PETER AND THE STARCATCHER”
- When: Through Feb. 26
- Where: Ritz Theater, 345 13th Ave. NE, Mpls.
- Tickets: $48-$35, 612-339-3003 or theaterlatteda.com
- Capsule: It’ll hook you.