Sunday, January 21, 2018
Stage

Freefall brings back 'Peter and the Starcatcher,' along with its more famous cousin, 'Peter Pan'

ST. PETERSBURG

As carols ring and sleigh bells sing through department store speakers mounted in the ceiling, one local theater has taken a slightly different path.

Freefall Theatre, which last year treated children and adults to a soldout run of Peter and the Starcatcher, is reprising that show along with the original play that inspired it, Peter Pan. Both shows will run through January, alternating prime billing on weekends.

On several Saturdays during the run, you can see both plays, starting with a 2 p.m. matinee.

Chris Crawford played Black Stache, the pirate king in last year's production of Peter and the Starcatcher, a prequel in which an adolescent Peter is forced to choose between a girl and eternal youth.

The writers who developed Peter and the Starcatcher understood the best villains are a little vainglorious, and wrote the Captain Hook corollary with a lot of pizzazz.

"Who am I?" he asks in an imperious moment, a phrase made famous by Leonard Bernstein, whose song, (Who Am I?) helped define the 1950 musical Peter Pan, one of many derivative works out of J.M. Barrie's 1904 play.

During a recent rehearsal break, Crawford, 35, recalled a favorite moment from last year's run.

"I was saying, 'Who am I?' And a kid in the front row yells out, 'Black Stache!'

"And I thought, 'How amazing!' "

Barrie, he noted, developed stories by telling them to children, then asking kids to narrate the story back to him in their own words.

"He wanted everyone to have a childlike imagination," said Crawford, one of five actors in Starcatcher to return.

As for doing the shows in repertory, he said, "I think it's a great idea, and children and adults are going to love it."

More than a century separates the 1904 play and its prequel, which began as a 2004 novel by humorist Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, then was adapted to the stage by Rick Elice. Peter and the Starcatcher debuted in 2009 and opened on Broadway in 2012.

Eric Davis, Freefall's producing artistic director, directs Peter Pan . Crawford directs Peter and the Starcatcher.

"They are two different plays written 100 years apart," Davis said. "But audiences will be surprised at actually how much they share."

Both plays can be whimsical, funny or poignant, Davis said. "Both have melancholy moments that relate to the loss of childhood's innocence, both literally and figuratively, delving into things like war, deception and grief, and many other serious topics both obvious and not so obvious. Both plays can be enjoyed by children, but both plays can be enjoyed by adults on myriad levels, depending on how deeply the individual is willing to look."

Both plays have musical scores, the music for Starcatcher written by Wayne Barker. Freefall's Peter Pan comes with a bonus: a score by musical director Michael Raabe, including several songs.

Raabe said he tried to vary the pace — there's a pirate number and a mermaid song reminiscent of the swing dancing era.

"I didn't want it to feel too modern," Raabe said. The score also tugs at the same conflicts that characterize the play, in what Raabe called "a yearning ballad about finding home and finding my world."

All of which sounds like it ought to be plenty merry enough. Besides, aren't the holidays supposed to be about unwrapping new things?

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

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