I thought of my Aunt Trudy as I watched the Lyric Stage’s delightful PETER AND THE STAR CATCHER by Rick Elice and music by Wayne Barker (playing thru June 26th ). She always said that “silliness is next to godliness” and nothing could exemplify her notion better than director Spiro Veloudos’ hilarious foray into the world of Peter Pan. Elice’s play is a loose (one might even say loosey goosey) prequel to the story we all know, except in this imagining, the lost boys are orphans in grave danger until a plucky little Victorian girl sets out to save them.
We meet Hook and Peter way before either is named by J. M Barrie. Here Peter is just a lonely boy and Hook is an absurd pirate called “Black Stache” for the painted on “face foliage” under his nose. (Ed Hoopman channels Groucho Marx and W.S Gilbert for his comic pirate.)
The story is so convoluted that I wasted precious laugh time trying to figure it out. Word to the wise: Don’t. Just keep laughing. You only need to know that, should you “Catch a Falling Star and Put it in your Pocket” (a song from the ‘50s, not in this show), very strange things will happen to you. That’s why a trunk load of the magic star stuff is so valuable that everyone wants to steal it… which brings us back to pirates.
I adore fictional pirates, from Penzance or the Caribbean. Hoopman put me blissfully in mind of Kevin Kline’s wacky Pirate King as well as Johnny Depp’s oddball Captain Jack Sparrow. His malapropping tour de force is one reason to see the Lyric show. Another is Margaret Ann Brady’s frisky old salt with romantic designs on Will McGarrahan’s blushing Mrs. Bumbrake. (The gender reversal is hysterical.)
Marc Pierre is quite winning and clever as Peter and Erica Spyres is charming as the insufferable but cheery little trooper enlisted by her stalwart father (Damon Singletary in Queen Victoria’s secret service) to help him thwart Captain Bill “rat bastard” Slank (Dale J Young). You see the sleazy Slank has switched trunks and absconded with the Queen’s stardust.
Everyone is superbly silly, with Matt Spano taking the cake (or the sticky pudding in this case) by fainting at the mere mention of the divine dessert, even his own. The music is a treat (with Catherine Stornetta on keyboard and Zachary Hardy on percussion & wonderful sound effects) but the piece de resistance is Ilyse Robbins’ ocean extravaganza a la Busby Berkeley for the sea creatures turned into dancing mermaids by the magic star stuff. The puns are outrageous. The allusions are shameless. The merriment is just what we need to forget the coming election.