Review: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre

Review: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre

Pictured: Ben F. Locke & Sarah Cartwright. Photo by Ellen Prather. 

By Elizabeth Ellis

Theatrical spoofs like THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW and Monty Python’s SPAMALOT can provide a fresh look and new perspectives on old familiar stories. What helps these kinds of spoofs succeed is a willingness for the creators to engage in a substantial measure of absolute silliness (see the clopping coconut shells in SPAMALOT substituting for actual horses). The play-with-music PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, playing now at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights, balances a healthy dose of the silly with excellent music, great dancing, and energetic performances. Though this is definitely not children’s theater, the entire family can come and thoroughly enjoy the show.

Based on the 2004 novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, with a book by Rick Elice and music by Wayne Barker, PETER AND THE STARCATCHER is a prequel to Peter and Wendy, J.M. Barrie’s classic story that introduced audiences to Peter Pan. We meet some familiar characters, including the inspirations for Captain Hook in the crazy pirate, Black Stache; Smee, Black Stache’s bumbling sidekick; and Molly, the precocious and courageous predecessor for Peter’s friend, Wendy. Add to them a treacherous ocean voyage, a calamitous shipwreck, a trunk of a secret and magical substance called starstuff, three abused and frightened orphans, and a tribe of Italian-speaking natives, and you have the adventure that is PETER AND THE STARCATCHER.

Ben F. Locke is all wide-eyed wonder and bravely faces the changes from a nameless orphan to become the eternal boy Peter Pan. Sarah Cartwright’s Molly is a fierce and wonderful young feminist hero, fighting back against the societal strictures that would keep her safe and bored at home. Her father, Patrick Byrnes’ perfectly stuffy Brit Lord Aster, provides an excellent foil to Michael Pine’s wonderfully over-the-top lunatic pirate, Black Stache, and Luis David Cortes’ hilarious Smee. The rest of the ensemble performs admirably, especially in the show-stopping Act II opener, where everyone is transformed into singing, dancing, neon lame-clad mermaids.

Lili-Anne Brown’s fast-paced direction plays homage to classic humor like Monty Python and the British tradition of pantomime, and she allows the actors to riff off each other with general success, though some of the jokes are a little too inside and fall flat. Ashley Woods’ gorgeous set easily morphs from the seaworthy ships Neverland and Wasp to a lush and remote tropical island, which eventually becomes Peter’s home, Neverland. Rachel Parent’s beautiful costuming helps define the show from England to the high seas to a forbidding desert island, going from swashbuckling to ragtag to tribal and back again to silly.

It’s worth the train or car ride to Arlington Heights to visit Metropolis and visit Neverland. This show will give children a thrilling ride through a fabulous imaginary land, while adults will experience the bittersweet recollection of the innocence and wonder of childhood.

PETER AND THE STARCATCHER runs through August 20th. For more information visit

About author

Elizabeth Ellis

Elizabeth is an actor, playwright, musician, and a graduate of De Paul University. She studied theatre and improvisation at the Second City Training Center, the Actors’ Center, and at the Royal National Theatre Studio in London. Elizabeth has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Tympanic Theatre, Congo Square Theatre, Second City's Children's Theatre, Stage Left Theatre, Bailiwick Arts Center, and London's Canal Cafe Theatre. Six of her plays have been chosen as part of the Abbie Hoffman and the Around the Coyote festivals.