‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ sets sail at Leeds beginning Friday

Published 4:48 pm Thursday, February 23, 2023

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If you think you know the story of Peter Pan, then think again.

“Peter and the Starcatcher,” a prequel of sorts to the beloved tale by J.M Barrie, opens at the Leeds Center for the Arts in Winchester on Friday.

The show, which premiered in California in 2011, is a light-hearted origin for the nameless orphan who eventually becomes the legendary boy who never grew up. Several characters from the Pan legendarium, such as Captain James Hook, appear but have yet to assume their better-known aliases.

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Others, such as Molly, played by Wincheter-native Elena Guerra, will be unfamiliar to audiences.

“It’s kind of hard to describe because people are like, ‘Aren’t you Wendy?’” Guerra said.

Molly is, in fact, the girl who will grow up to be Wendy’s mother. But unlike her future daughter, Molly is not looking for adventure.

“She is a young British child, she is 13, and she is the daughter of a captain who sails for Queen Victoria,” Guerra said. “She is very proper, and her dad is going on a mission for the queen. She is left on an adjacent ship to hold down the fort, so to speak. So she has to make her way and find her way where she meets Boy – who is later named Peter.”

Kieshaun Butts plays Boy/Peter and calls his character “the classic Peter Pan,” but with layers.

“He is a boy with ambitions, but it is clouded by a lot of his past traumas and experiences with the world that have made him upset with the world and not trusting of what is going on around him,” Butts said.

Some characters, like the Lost Boys, take a more central role.

“These feel more like real, fleshed-out characters than the Lost Boys in the movies,” said Jacob Ernst, who plays Prentiss. “For a lot of this story, they are orphans who find themselves in this crazy high-stakes situation, and it is about them experiencing the Lost Boy adventure lifestyle for the first time.”

Several things distinguish the play from the iterations that came before it.

One is how funny of a show it is.

“There are some truly hilarious parts to the show,” said actress J. Morgan Shaffo, who plays Alf the pirate. “What makes this show so special is not only is it a comedy, but it also explores the hope of the story.”

Another is that it celebrates the magical moments that make childhood wonderful.

The set is comprised of a treehouse that could be found in any backyard in America.

Guerra said that audiences should expect to see the cast indulging in some favorite playtime activities.

“The beginning of the show starts off with play. I’m playing monkey in the middle, others are jumping rope, and some of us are writing on the stage with chalk. It’s got this childlike wonder that is super, super interesting in the script, but our lovely director has highlighted it.”

For anyone interested in experiencing said childhood wonder, tickets are available on Leeds’ website, www.leedscenter.org/event/peter-and-the-starcatcher. The cost is $22 for adults and $18 for students.

The show will run February 24-26 and March 3-5. The Friday and Saturday performances start at 7:30 p.m., and the Sunday performances begin at 2:30.