By Ayumu Izumo
On December 7th-9th, 2017, the first B’DAT production of the school year hit the stage: “Peter and the Starcatcher.” It had tons of twists and turns, as well as a multitude of character types, from pirates, to captains, to nannies. The play depicts how popular fictional characters became the widely known heroes (or villains) that they ended up being in Peter Pan; it explains how Peter Pan became “Peter Pan” and how Captain Hook became “Captain Hook.”
The playing of a piano opened up the first act and the story that it was about to tell. Right after that, the cast members entered, telling the story that the audience would be treated to for the next hour. It is a story about an orphan boy who finds himself on a ship, trying to find a place where he can reside. Throughout the act, the cast portrayed a wide range of characters through a variety of voices, such as the falsetto-like voice of Ben Goldstein playing the female character of “Mrs. Bumbrake,” and the growling voice of Oliver Wang’s “Slank.” The lighting effects in this act were really interesting, as lights kept changing colors to match the mood of the scene. This was especially noticeable when the back lights switched to green as one of the characters was about to vomit. There were also many suspenseful build-ups and dramas–involving stage fights, shipwrecks, treasure chests, and even characters getting thrown off a ship! And this mysterious world surrounded the curious but mistreated orphan boy. He looked around desperately to find something of interest, even though he was surrounded by a bunch of wild characters on the ship who would always oppose him. Ultimately, he was thrown off the ship, but he was then given a chest, which he uses to sail away. The audience is left wondering, will he reach a better destination by sailing away?
In Act 2, the boy found a destination. Immediately after the act started, the audience got to see how much more colorful the setting was, compared to what it was in the ships throughout Act 1. The costumes worn by the cast members, meant to portray mermaids, had a wide range of colors, items, and textures. They sung “Starstruck,” a relaxing song that reflected the positive vibes of this new setting. I recall one moment in the song when a cast member sat on people to the sounds of bells and kazoos coming from the pit band, making the whole audience laugh–myself included. When the new setting of the island settled in, with the many different creatures, pineapples, and tree branches that came along with it, the tone set by the play immediately changed. I could see how the orphan boy started to find happiness and freedom inside of him through various ways, such as the shining sun, and the hug he received as soon as he arrived there. However, the boy’s newfound relief also came with challenge, as a group known as the mollusks captured the boy and his companions. Luckily, they escaped their capture thanks to a clever plan and in the end, the orphan boy was finally given the name–“Peter Pan”–from a mermaid, and Lord Aster, a lord on a mission for Queen Victoria, turned out to be the starcatcher who made Peter realize that this was a new home for him. Throughout the act, the use of ladders, lights, paper triangles to create a full-sized crocodile were clever constructions. Many parts of the act, such as when one of the cast members playfully rattled the lost arm of Black Stache right after it got cut off of him, were so funny that one might not think this act was dramatic (even though it was filled with tons of drama, as seen in Act 1) but rather, a straight-up comedy.
Regarding the whole cast, everyone did an excellent job–able to skillfully portray many different characters who had different voices and costumes. Shane Bray was outstanding as “Smee”; his acting was really explosive. Also, Leandro McPhee, the orphan boy who became “Peter Pan,” was a great fit for the curious, yet mistreated character he portrayed in the play. Of course, Jonah Finger as “Black Stache” was a really comical fit; throughout the show, he had the audacity to keep the audience interested in what was going on across the stage, whether it was for gasps or laughs. I also have to give a special shoutout to the Mermaid Pit Band, who accompanied the play with fitting sound effects and music: sounds included tongue click-clacking to resemble the tick-tock of a clock, the use of tambourines, cymbals, etc. After watching the show, I talked with one of the pit band members, Serena Weil, who played a wide range of instruments, including a big string instrument that resembled a harp, a broken violin, and a wooden box and stick. As Serena lacked experience playing those instruments, learning how to play them was not easy: “it was a difficult process, but it was pretty fun.”
From the drama on the ship to the breezy island setting to the versatile music to the engaging character portrayal, B’DAT’s production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” displayed all kinds of amazing for a fantasy-filled play.
Find more photos of the production at: https://www.facebook.com/bdatnyc/.