Filled with marauding pirates, mermaids, Lost Boys, jungle tyrants, a crocodile and a flying cat, not to mention unwilling comrades and unlikely heroes, “Peter and the Starcatcher” comes to the Stagebrush Theatre in Scottsdale courtesy of Greasepaint Youtheatre May 5-14.
The Tony-Award-winning play not only explores the depths of greed and despair, but also the bonds of friendship, duty and love.
Peter, of course, is the miserable orphan, originally nameless, who later comes to be known as “The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up,” — a.k.a. Peter Pan. He and his mates sail away from Victorian England to a faraway land, unaware that the captain’s cabin houses a mysterious trunk containing a precious, otherworldly cargo.
Unaware, that is, until they’re discovered by a young girl named Molly. A precocious young Starcatcher-in-training, she realizes the trunk contains starstuff, a powerful celestial substance. The journey becomes a thrilling adventure when pirates, led by Black Stache, take over the ship and attempt to claim the trunk and use its content for their own nefarious purposes.
Directing the show is Maureen Dias-Watson, artistic director at Greasepaint, who remembers taking her two daughters to see the production on Broadway performed by its original cast.
“Christian Borle, who originated the role of Black Stache, was incredible,” she says, noting that at one point in the story, he loses his hand. She thought it was one of the funniest scenes she had ever witnessed onstage. “It was like the old Carol Burnett shows when Harvey Korman and Tim Conway would crack everyone up. … Borle had his entire cast and the audience laughing for three minutes solid. The show literally could not move on.”
Dias-Watson had so much fun in the audience, she “thought it would be a hoot to direct here.” And now she has, with a cast of 22 actors portraying more than 100 characters.
Playing Peter is 16-year-old Blake Sullivan, a sophomore at Millennium High School in Goodyear. “I’m having a blast playing him,” he says, “as I feel like I can relate to his attitude and his whole ‘standing up to authority figures’ thing.”
Blake loves it “when you get to see the real emotional parts of Peter as well as his interactions with characters like Molly or Black Stache. This show is definitely going to be one of the best ones I’ve ever been in, and I can’t wait for people to see it,” says Blake, who is his first role at Greasepaint.
“Several of the leads are played by seniors who have been doing shows here for years, and this is their last one,” says Dias-Watson, adding that “it’s always bittersweet.” Alyssa Gonzalez, who plays Molly, is one of Greasepaint’s seniors, as is Sawyer Bland, who plays Black Stache.
Alyssa is a senior at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale and plans to move to Los Angeles this summer. She has appeared previously in such other roles as Cinderella in “Into the Woods,” Cassie in “13 the Musical,” and Miss Krumholtz in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
Sawyer is an 18-year-old senior at Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix. His first appearance at Greasepaint was in “Les Miserables” at age 12, and he has been seen in 11 more productions since then. But Black Stache is his dream role.
“Stache is a character that represents irreverence in the face of a classic lesson about traditional moral structures,” Sawyer says. “He has a tendency to just drop in apathetically and barge into otherwise clear-cut lessons teaching kids typical morality. I enjoy this disposition as I personally enjoy challenging people’s perceived moral systems, being a nihilist myself,” he jokes.
Plus, the costume is cool. Sawyer is the son of Karina Bland, a reporter and columnist for The Arizona Republic.
“Peter and the Starcatcher” is recommended for all ages.
“It’s really well written, with humor that is appreciated by young and old,” says Dias-Watson. Furthermore, she says, it “uses ingenious stagecraft and the limitless possibilities of imagination to bring the story to life.”
If you go: May 5-14; 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Stagebrush Theatre, 7020 E. Second St., Scottsdale. $17; $15 per person for groups of 10 or more. 480-949-7529 or greasepaint.org.