University Theatre’s newest production, “Peter and the Starcatcher” — which opens this week on Thursday, Nov. 17 — offers a chance for audience members of all ages to rediscover a spirit of childlike wonder.
This Tony Award-winning play upends the century-old story of how a miserable orphan comes to be “The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up” — otherwise known as Peter Pan. It is a wildly theatrical work of storytelling for the whole family, full of magic, invention, and hilarity. From marauding pirates and jungle tyrants to unwilling comrades and unlikely heroes, “Peter and the Starcatcher” playfully explores the depths of greed and despair… and the bonds of friendship, duty, and love.
Jessica Lanius, the artistic director of Madison’s Theatre LILA and a lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Drama, directs the play. She said it truly is a show that children and adults can enjoy together.
The play features a large, ensemble cast of UW–Madison students, who jump in and out of roles, use objects and movement to tell the story, and are even creating music for the show alongside two professional musicians. In one of their first meetings Lanius asked the actors what instruments they played — some you will hear throughout the show include viola, clarinet, harmonica, and trumpet.
“This really is a very open, generous group of actors,” said Lanius. “They’ve been up for anything.”
At the start of rehearsals, Lanius spent a few days engaging the actors in improvisation and creative exercises to help them learn how to work — and play — together. “Reconnecting with that childlike sense of play is very important,” she explained, to spark their imagination and help them create their characters.
“She gives the actors their voice, and gives us a lot of autonomy to create,” said Grace Ruelle, a junior at UW–Madison and member of the ensemble. “I feel like there’s been a lot of freedom.”
Noah Kohn-Dunbuya, a UW–Madison senior and cast member, agreed: “Jessica gives us a lot of power to make the characters our own,” he said. Kohn’s characters include Captain Scott and Teacher — who, he added, just happens to be a mermaid.
Sydney Germany, who is a first-year student at UW–Madison and plays the lead character Molly, said about the rehearsal process, “It’s the most fun I’ve had since I’ve been here.” As for why you should come see the show, she remarked, “It can make you feel like a kid again.”
“It’s very whimsical, very magical — and very funny,” she said.
“It is very playful, and perfect for all ages,” added Lauren Iverson, a senior at UW–Madison who is playing Betty Bumbrake, Molly’s “British to the bone” nanny.
“Peter and the Starcatcher” runs Nov. 17 – Dec. 4 in the Department of Theatre and Drama’s Ronald E. Mitchell Theatre in Vilas Hall. Full-price tickets are $26, with discounts available for children, seniors, and UW–Madison faculty, staff, and students. You can also purchase four tickets in a “Family Four-Pack” for $60.
Get your tickets now at artsticketing.wisc.edu or by calling 608-265-2787.