“Peter And The Starcatcher” Soars At Chattanooga Theatre Centre

Prequel Tells “Peter Pan” Backstory in Farcical Comedy

Saturday, July 15, 2017 - by Andrew Clark

Chattanooga theatregoers saw first-hand Friday night the trajectory that new Chattanooga Theatre Centre (CTC) executive director Todd Olson is bound. Aiming for the stars, Olson welcomed an audience thirsty for light, airy summer fare, and his troupe of CTC thespians did not disappoint.

Under the direction of Scott Dunlap and Beth Gumnick, the CTC launched a production Friday of “Peter and The Starcatcher,” a 2011 play by Rick Elice adapted from an earlier novel penned by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. The production runs through July 30.

The play, fanciful, farcical and downright fun, tells the story of a nameless and emotionally thwarted orphan boy and his comrades who are kidnapped and foisted onto the second-rate English cargo ship “Never Land” in 1885, bound for slavery in the foreign kingdom of Rundoon.

Following the tumult and travail of the ill-fated voyage, the boy with the baggage finds his identity when a mermaid entices him to bathe in the syrupy, supernatural waters of an island grotto. Emerging from the iridescent soup, the mermaid dubs the orphan boy Peter Pan--portrayed sensitively in this production by James Ogden--and the subject of this light-hearted prequel learns he can fly.

But, too, the magical plasma from the lagoon has sentenced him to an eternity of boyhood hijinks and juvenile mishaps in exile from Molly Aster, the daughter of a newly-minted aristocrat and the lone girl passenger aboard “Never Land” with whom Peter has fallen in love.  

Boundless energy, wit and impeccable timing are the mainstays of this cast of 12, who combined portray nearly 100 characters through the course of the show. Anchored by Scott Shaw, who was flawless as the refined and deliciously effeminate villain “Black Stache,” and Madeline Brashier, the adorably well-mannered and stiff-lipped British “Molly Aster,” the symbiotic timing of this collective cast ferried the audience through an enjoyable evening that ushered-in one boisterous horse-laugh after another.

Sixteen-year CTC stage veteran John Echols’ offering as Mrs. Bumbrake, Molly’s hilariously stark and romantically repressed nanny, was of especial…rarity. In addition, Echols portrays the 12-foot-long mermaid who coaxes Peter to swim in the magical pool, bestowing upon him confidence and eternal youth, but, ultimately, dooming him to estrangement from his one true love, Molly.

Echols, known locally for his roles as the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz,” Spoon in “Beauty and The Beast,” and Avram in “Fiddler on The Roof,” also served as musical director for this production, playing an often times rolling piano across the stage, while simultaneously singing, dancing, playing percussions, and changing headdresses.

Greg Rambin as Smee and Jason Russell as Grempkin are two standouts in this production, as well. Rambin’s comic timing was unparalleled, and Russell’s menacing Grempkin is an essential piece to this production’s success.

Essential, too, to all successful productions are the set design and the costuming. The late Victorian costumes in this production were exquisitely executed by CTC veteran costumer and Children’s Theatre director, Scott Dunlap. The set, conjuring the deck of a 19th-century frigate replete with a spiral staircase, and floating set of stairs utilized in several well-choreographed numbers, was striking in that the full depth of the stage was employed to offer a larger-than-usual experience for theatregoers. Thanks to the set design of Sarah Miecielica, magic was palpable Friday night on the CTC’s mainstage.

“Peter and The Starcatcher”

Directed by Scott Dunlap and Beth Gunmick; Stage Manager, Angie Griffin; Assistant Stage Manager, Julia Wyant; Scenic Design, Sarah Miecielica; Costume Designe, Scott Dunlap; Sound Design, Gary May; Musical Director, John Echols; Lighting Design, Bill Banks. Performed on the Chattanooga Theatre Centre’s Mainstage at 400 River Street, Chattanooga, 37405. For tickets, call the box office at (423) 267-8534. The production runs Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through June 30.

WITH: Chris Barr (Lord Aster), Madeline Brashier (Molly), Jeremy Campbell (Captain Scott), John Echols (Mrs. Bumbrake/Teacher), Joshua Harrell (Ted), Stacy Helton (Alf), Trevor Miles (Slank/Hawking Clam), James Ogden (Boy), Jason Russell (Grempkin/Mack/Sanches/Fighting Prawn), Greg Rambin, Sr. (Smee), Scott Shaw, (Black Stache), and Nathan Tullos (Prentiss).



Pierce Pettis Plays At Charles And Myrtle's Saturday

Pierce Pettis will perform at Charles and Myrtle's Coffeehouse on Saturday at 8 p.m  The coffeehouse is inside Christ Unity Church at 105 McBrien Road.  There is a $10 suggested donation at the door. Review for Pierce Pettis: After a lifetime of crafting finely-wrought, heart-touching songs, singer-songwriter Pierce Pettis feels that he’s finally found his comfort ... (click for more)

Wind Ensemble To Perform Tuesday At Lee

The Lee University Wind Ensemble will open its spring semester of the 2017/18 season with a performance on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Conn Center.  Under the batons of Conductor Dr. David Holsinger, professor of music at Lee, and Associate Conductor Winona Gray Holsinger, director of instrumental projects, the ensemble will open the evening with a transcription by David ... (click for more)

1 Person Killed In Accident Involving 18-Wheeler On Ochs Highway

One person was killed Saturday morning on Ochs Highway. Another person in the same vehicle was taken to the hospital. An 18-wheeler was coming down the mountain, and hit three cars traveling up the mountain. Ochs Highway was closed in both directions, and HAZMAT crews were at the scene. The wreck happened at mid-morning. (click for more)

Hixson Home Destroyed By Fire Early Saturday Morning

A home was destroyed by fire early Saturday morning in Hixson. Around  2:30 a.m. , the Dallas Bay Volunteer Fire Department responded to a possible house fire at  904 Wesley Drive  in Hixson. When the first unit arrived on the scene, they reported the second floor of the home was completely engulfed with fire. Firefighters conducted a defensive ... (click for more)

Six Things We Can Do About Mass Shootings

All politics aside, the recent shooting in Florida, and every other shooting in a public place, is a senseless and, possibly, preventable tragedy. It is absurd that we can’t gather in a free society without the fear of some nut job or terrorist using us as targets.   And then the cries of “do something!” from every quarter. But, other than the obvious attempt by agenda-pushers ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

It wasn’t lost on me that during Valentine Week, when we most remember those we love, this first story was included in my weekly email. As has become my habit, every Saturday I try to come up with a new edition of The Saturday Funnies because I get some delightful ones that are shared by my friends during the week. We must never waste a giggle. So in keeping with my ... (click for more)