Whether acting, performing or directing, Bradley Moore proves time and time again, he’s not only more than capable in any capacity, but also that he’s willing to take chances to present the Nashville area theatre community with unique, often rarely seen productions. As director of Renaissance Players‘ latest offering, “Peter and the Starcatcher”, Moore does just that, presenting the regional premiere of the work, no less. Limited to a two-week run, “Starcatcher” concludes this weekend with three final performances Friday-Sunday, August 19-21 at the Renaissance Center in nearby Dickson, TN.
2016 has been a busy year for Moore. “Starcatcher” not only marks his debut collaboration directing a show with Renaissance Players, it also marks his ninth show (as either actor or director) this year alone.
For those not familiar, “Starcatcher” is to “Peter Pan” as “Wicked” is to “The Wizard of Oz”, well, at least that was likely the hope when Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry and children’s adventure novelist Ridley Pearson teamed to write the novel the show is based on back in 2005. Like “Wicked”, “Starcatcher” offers a what if scenario of events prior to the story we are familiar with. Unlike “Wicked”, “Starcatcher”, its stage adaptation in particular, can’t decide if it’s for kids or adults, and it doesn’t have the benefit of a earworm-worthy soundtrack, given “Starcatcher” isn’t a musical.
While director Moore couldn’t exactly fix the inherent problems of “Starcatcher”…well, I take that back, I’m confident he could rework the script and even add a perfectly pirate-appropriate score…what he does do with this production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” is present it in the best light. He does this by filling the cast with some of Middle Tennessee’s best and brightest actors; by no coincidence, many of whom have worked under Moore’s direction in everything from his regional premiere of “American Idiot” for Circle Players to “4000 Miles” and “Psycho Beach Party” for his own Music City Theatre Company.
Just as he’s about to begin his college career, Shane Kopischke is cast as Peter. Having seen Shane perform in a number of shows in recent years, it’s simply wonderful to watch him grow as a performer with each new role. While that may seem an interesting statement, considering in “Starcatcher” he’s playing the leader of the Lost Boys, whose wish it to never grow up, it’s Kopischke’s stage presence and was and comfort with which he delivers his lines and becomes the character that’s impressive.
Peter’s flittering, fluttering fairy pal Tink isn’t exactly among the cast of this pre-Peter Pan presentation. Neither is Wendy, for that matter. Instead there’s tomboyish Molly in the persona of actress Jenna Pryor. Having recently starred in Moore’s aforementioned “Psycho Beach Party”, Pryor gets the chance to tone it down a bit and go from psycho to excitable as Molly, a young girl of privilege who befriends Peter and the boys. Pryor approaches Molly with the perfect balance of wide-eyed enthusiasm, plucky charm and wisdom beyond the young girl’s years.
You can’t have a story about Peter Pan, even a sequel, without the villainous pirate. To that end, Moore has cast Michael Adcock. Like Kopischke, and many of the cast, I’ve seen Adcock in a number of roles over the years, and I’ve also gotten to know him socially. That said, he’s perfectly, brilliantly cast as Black Stache, the younger forerunner to Peter Pan’s more hirsute nemisis. Anyone who knows Adcock knows he like to pretend he lives up to his cocky surname, so the chance to play the impudent, egotistical Black Stache allows Adcock to steal every scene, even when his character can’t steal the treasure. Speaking of stealing, knowing Adock like I do, one of the first things I noticed when he took to the stage was his footwear. I’m stealing those boots first thing I get, but I digress.
David Arnold, likely due his natural stature and deep voice, is frequently cast as royalty, a leader of men or a father figure. The latter being the case in “Starcatcher”. Within the context of the play, he’s cast as Lord Aster, Molly’s father. He’s on a secret mission for Queen Victoria that involves the delivery of a trunk aboard a ship called the Wasp. In hopes of securing his daughter’s safety during his mission, he insists she and her nanny, Mrs. Bumbrake, take separate passage on another ship, the Neverland, which is also transporting an identical decoy trunk, with the intent to meet up later. Always a joy to see onstage, Arnold never disappoints, even in the more limited role of Lord Aster. After all, the show’s not called Lord Aster and the Starcatcher.
In a bit of interesting casting, Arnold’s real-life wife, Cat Arnold, who wowed audiences in a recent production of Del Shores’ “The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife”, is nearly unrecognizable in “Starcatcher” as Alf, a member of the Neverland’s pirate crew. That’s right, Cat’s playing a man–mutton chop sideburns, over-stuffed beer belly and all. It should also be noted that several of the shows costumes, included most of the pirates’ coats, were created by Arnold, a ridiculously talented costumer. The remainder of the costumes come courtesy of Valerie Kopischke. Always enjoyable, Cat makes the most of her time on stage with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
Speaking of tongue in cheek, that leads to Coltyn Sands and his role as Mrs. Bumbrake. While Arnold and Sands’ gender-switching casting may confuse some audience members, my companion for last Sunday’s matinee included, there are two things to keep in mind. 1) Moore loves to flip the script on casting as he does with Cat, who I’m now convinced could play any role she’s up for, and 2) the role of Mrs. Bumbrake, since the show’s premiere staging in 2009, has honored the tradition of the pantomime dame, in which a male actor portrays an extreme exaggeration of a female character. Sands, who sports a beard somewhere between hipster and an Amish farmer, hams it up as not only Mrs. Bumbrake, but also a mermaid siren later in the show. Making his performance even more enjoyable is the fact that Sands’ Bumbrake and Arnold’s Alf end up romancing each other. So yes, you have a woman playing a man courting a man playing a woman. Confused? You shouldn’t be.
Other notables among the cast include Sydney Hooper as Smee–yet another gender bend, Joab Shepperd as Captain Bill Slank–looking like he could easily co-star in the next Johnny Depp Disney Pirate movie, and Jon Kopischke–in a multitude of roles ranging from Fighting Prawn, a former slave who speaks in cooking terms to Sanchez, a stereotypical Spanish pirate.
“Peter and the Starcatcher is filled with laughs, often corny and sometimes forced, thanks to playwright Rick Elice, who simply took humorist Dave Barry’s original work and ran with it. Thankfully though, as helmed by Bradley Moore and aided by truly talented cast, it’s the heart of the story and the connection with the more famous preceding familiar tale that help make “Peter and the Starcatcher” a show worth catching.
The Renaissance Players’ “Peter and the Starcatcher” concludes its limited two-week run with three shows remaining. Friday and Saturday evening performances begin at 7 p.m. with Sunday’s final matinee starting at 2 p.m. Tickets range in price from $5 for children 6 and under and $10 for students and senior citizens to $15 for adults. Renaissance Players‘ perform on the main auditorium stage at The Renaissance Center (855 Highway 46 South, Dickson, TN 37055), Click Here to purchase tickets. For any other reservation requests or questions, call 615.289.0167.
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