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Colerain High School’s "Peter and the Starcatcher"

Review by Erin Driehaus, Mercy McAuley High School Cappies Critic Team

Almost everyone has heard the iconic story of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. Through their performance of “Peter and the Starcatcher,” Colerain High School told the story of how the beloved flying boy came to be and the adventure he embarked on to become the hero so well known today.

Set in Victorian England (God Save Her!), this fast paced show tells the origin story of the witty friend every person grew up knowing and loving. Lord Leonard Aster and his daughter Molly embark on an important mission that entails transporting and disposing of a chest full of the mysterious substance, “Starstuff.” When they become separated, Molly meets a poor abused orphan who is so alone in the world he has no name. The two are in for the adventure of a lifetime as they face duplicitous ship captains, thieving pirates, and Italian islanders.

Colerain High School’s extremely talented cast and adept crew created a world of whimsy and magic through their performance of “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Their production truly brought to life the iconic characters and drove home the theme of seeking out fun and adventure to nurture the child inside every person.

Providing the show with the essential strong leading male it required, Jesse Hitsman was superb in his role as Boy/Peter. Hitsman’s impressive ability to adapt his diction and physicality allowed him to visually and vocally portray the complex development undergone by his character throughout the show. This transformed him from a timorous, shy orphan into a free-spirited boy, thirsty for adventure and fun. He also had wonderful chemistry with Jace Williams, who performed opposite from him, in the role of Molly Aster. Williams’s wonderfully consistent British accent and mastery of her character enabled her to perfectly embody Molly, a stubborn, independent, and intelligent young woman.

Other standout performances from the cast included Andrew Haney as Black Stache, who absolutely dominated the stage with his dramatic presence, and Dylan Waters as Smee, showcasing his talents in both acting and strumming the ukulele. The comedic duo’s hilarious interactions elicited copious amounts of laughter while also providing the show with the villains it needed. Also notable was Jacob Davis’s portrayal of Mrs. Bumbrake, in which he managed to both maintain his falsetto and run across the stage in heels, neither of which was an easy task.

From a technical standpoint, Colerain’s crews did exceptional work. The Lighting Crew, consisting of Max Obszarski, Quinn Meier, Carolyn McCane, and Jacob Sanderson, used their impressive light design to communicate shifts in location and emphasize specific actions or characters to help further the plot. The Special Effects, or “Foley Box” Crew, consisting of Sarah Cappel and Justin Matevia, added an even greater dimension to the show through their live sound effects. Their various props and self-made sounds made the performance both more realistic and enjoyable.

Colerain High School delivered a fantastic production of Peter and the Starcatcher, and through the combination of their dedicated cast and adroit crew, embodied the joyful and adventurous spirit of Peter Pan in their dramatic retelling of his origin story.

Review by Lucy Lawler, St. Ursula Academy Cappies Critic Team

From the immediate moment of his conception, Peter Pan became an automatic enigma. A master of magic and mystery, Pan introduced a whole new world to children and adults alike. In Neverland, anything was possible; Shimmering pixie dust, scheming swashbucklers, and the occasional jealous mermaid were all part of the daily routine. But how did “the boy who wouldn’t grow up” come to be? Colerain High School provides the answer in their amusing production of “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

Designed for the stage in 2011, “Peter and the Starcatcher ” serves as a delightful prequel for J.M Barrie’s famed novel, “Peter and Wendy. ” Beginning in the ports of Britain, the story focuses on a despondent orphan boy who is being shipped off to Rundoon. While aboard, the lad finds an ally in Molly Aster, a young and talented apprentice sworn to protect the precious “star stuff” that has mistakenly been loaded onto the boat. As a series of zany battles and close calls ensue, the boy begins to understand what it means to be a hero. But with this discovery comes a harsh truth: finding a home doesn’t come easy for Peter Pan.

To capture the pure wonder of the Peter Pan story is no simple feat. Brimming with an insistent sense of vitality, Colerain Drama’s performance never shied away from the formidable challenge.

Jesse Hitsman’s portrayal of lost boy Peter Pan was both charming and effective. Equipped with an extensive emotional range, Hitsman was able to communicate the realities of both a broken child and resilient hero. The lead actor also succeeded when it came to demonstrating the classic character’s key traits; Hitsman’s natural utilization of innocence and mischief only elevated his Pan persona. Jace Williams’s depiction of the quick-witted Molly Aster also provided an undeniable sense of versatility. Williams’s performance radiated humor and charisma. Additionally, her relentless eagerness and earnest quality was the perfect contrast to Hitsman’s calm and collected manner. When together, these actors proved that good and proper stage chemistry never grows old.

Of course, Neverland just wouldn’t be the same without Peter’s avant-garde acquaintances. Andrew Haney’s interpretation of the notorious captain Black Stache was seriously side-splitting. The epitome of a lovable villain, Haney’s flamboyant antics were as constant as the second star on the right. Whether he was breaking the fourth wall to reference Michael Jackson or reciting Shakespeare in the middle of a boxing match, Haney’s hilarity did not go unnoticed. Seniors Liz Browning and Chloe Cartwright also delivered memorable performances in the roles of Prentiss and Ted . Serving as a sort of dynamic duo, these two actresses breathed new life into the narrative with their endearing spats and squabbles.

Finally, Jacob Davis’s rendition of nanny Mrs. Bumbrake was utterly audacious. Proving himself to be quite posh in the role, Davis also never let Molly forget what it means to be a strong woman. Not to be ignored were the talents of the entire ensemble who fully embodied the classic Peter Pan spirit.

Technical elements also played an integral role in the authenticity of Colerain’s production. Adhering to Neverland’s magnificent whimsy, the set design featured both rustic sailing ships and idyllic jungle backdrops painted by crew members. The use of props also exuded creativity; lengths of rope successfully mimicked the vessels’ boundaries, and model ships held by actors allowed bigger action scenes to be observed on a more intimate scale. Perhaps the paramount technical aspect utilized in the play was that of the Foley Box which created live sound effects.

From screen to stage, Peter Pan never fails to impress. Colerain High School’s interpretation of “Peter and the Starcatcher” was no different. Teeming with quaint nostalgia, it offered a new observational lens for the legend. One that was as timeless as Neverland itself.

Review by Brooke Yates, Larry A. Ryle High School Cappies Critic Team

“Peter and the Starcatcher” was originally a novel, adapted to the stage by Rick Elice with music by Wayne Barker. It tells the story of the iconic Peter Pan as well as Molly Aster, the future mother of Wendy Darling. Captain Hook and Peter Pan’s backstories are both explored through this fun and relevant show that deals plenty of laughter- but not without its fair share of tears by the bittersweet end.

Although the story had a bit of a slow start, within fifteen minutes everyone in the audience had been successfully swept-up in the excellent world of Starcatchers and pirates, where even normal fish could become mermaids. This show was taken above and beyond by the creativity put into every little detail throughout, as well as the students’ overall commitment in telling the complex and intricate story.

Of course, the show wouldn’t have been what it was if not for the two characters who made up its namesake: Boy/Peter, played by Jesse Hitsman, and the young Starcatcher Molly Aster, played by Jace Williams. Jesse Hitsman was not only incredible at encapsulating the childlike nature of his character but also, expressing his secret longings and despairs. On top of this, he also helped, along with Trinity Fugate,the amazing actress who played Lord Leonard Aster, to create the show’s choreography. Jace Williams was Hitsman’s equally versatile female counterpart, performing with an eloquence that made Molly both believable and inspiring. The final lead was the villain, who, despite his lack of a hand, earned an easy two thumbs up. Instantly captivating, Andrew Haney had an intoxicating stage presence as Black Stache that emulated the iconic Christian Borle himself.

The ensemble served as effective support for the leads, assuming their roles with passionate ease. Dylan Waters as Smee, in particular, managed to steal the audience’s heart, causing roaring laughter nearly every time he entered the stage. Melat Betewelign was a perfect fit for Captain Robert Falcon Scott(cq) regardless of gender. Another character that was wonderfully cast was the humorous Jacob Davis as Mrs.Bumbrake. Finally, the entirety of the ensemble lived up to every expectation given by the leads and the show itself.

The technical aspects of the production were also very well done. Sound and lighting both had original cues created by the students, and although sometimes mistakes were made, they were well-concealed, and the show persevered. All the props were impressive and creative in a way that struck awe without many materials even being needed. Hair, makeup, and costumes all fit the mood of the show with interesting face paint and hand-sewn costume pieces. The set was the one technical element that soared above them all, featuring a giant ship constructed center stage, complete with a functioning steering wheel. This was later transformed into the island of Neverland with a masterful tree centerpiece. All in all, each technical element worked hand in hook to contribute to the story.

Excerpts from Top-Ranked Student Reviews

“One of the standout performances of this production was given by Andrew Haney in his role as Black Stache . Throughout history, pirates have been a thing of nightmares, but Haney presented this play’s more preposterous villain with a comedic touch that brought the show to life. His constant humor drove the play as he bounced around the stage, darting from joke to joke.”

-Iris LeCates, Walnut Hills High School.

“Led by the stage management team of Shelby Lutz, Kate Greenlee, and Sally Bauer, the crew did a phenomenal job during the show’s course. An intriguing and creative aspect of the show came from the use of a Foley box during the performance in which students Sarah Cappel and Justin Matevia created the play’s sound effects using several different noise-making objects. The set, being a beautifully crafted ship that was reconfigured into Mollusk Island for the second act, was designed and built by Shelby Lutz, Kate Greenlee, Sarah Cappel, Celeste Roberson, and other members of the crew.”

-Kelly Oberst, Larry A. Ryle High School

“Molly Aster, played by Jace Williams, guided the plot. Jace’s acting made the story lively, especially when she had to explain integral parts of the plot. Her British accent captured the joyful tone of her character while remaining natural. Her character development into a mature woman resulted in an emotional end to the story’s arc.”

-Caitlin Boutwell, Ursuline Academy

“The work of the technical crews was particularly fascinating in this production due to the sheer complexity of all the elements required to work together to create a seamless performance. The most interesting decision the crews made was to include a Foley Box, operated by Sarah Cappel and Justin Matevia, which was disguised as a small boat to the side of the stage where live sound effects were made to complement the action.”

-Anna Nappi, St. Ursula Academy

“Peter, played by Jesse Hitsman, was an energetic and complex character. Each of his movements on stage showed the great emotion with which he played his role. Molly, the female lead played by Jace Williams, matched Peter’s energy with her intensity and enthusiasm.”

- Frances Walke, Randall K. Cooper High School

“While there were many technical standouts in the production, one particularly eye-catching aspect was the beautifully-designed set. Appearing in the first act as a massive ship and in the second as an effervescent rainforest, the attention to detail shown within each gargantuan piece was quite impressive. Another notable technical aspect was the lighting design. Though “”Peter and the Starcatcher”” can be a bit confusing because of its many settings, the lighting design set each location apart, simultaneously delighting the eyes.”

-Hannah Moore, St. Ursula Academy

These reviews also appeared on the Cincinnati Enquirer's website.

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