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Broadway origin story for Peter Pan coming to Calgary’s StoryBook Theatre

J.M. Barrie’s classic story of free spirit Peter Pan and his adventures with Wendy Darling are well known, as is the story of what became of Peter Pan as told through the 1991 movie Hook.

But what about how Peter Pan came to be?

Peter and the Starcatcher, which tells that origin story, is coming to StoryBook Theatre from Feb. 10 through March 11.

“It’s kind of this origin story. Someone said, it’s the theatrical equivalent to what Wicked was to the Wizard of Oz,” said Simon Mallett, director for the StoryBook production of the play.

“But even if you don’t know Peter Pan, it’s a really lovely story about coming of age, teetering from adolescence into adulthood, and taking on that responsibility and finding family in places that you might not expect to.”

Set in the Victorian era, Peter and the Starcatcher is the story of a trio of young orphans, sent to an exotic destination in the company of a mysterious sea chest containing a wonderous treasure.

The play also introduces the notorious pirate Captain Stache, who will, by the end of the production, become the one-and-only Captain Hook.

“The other beautiful thing about it is that it’s a group of 15 performers, who come together to tell the story in a way that that acknowledges the presence of the audience, and really makes use of the tools of the theater,” Mallett said.

“It’s a lot of fun, it’s very funny, while also it surprises when suddenly you find yourself really emotionally hooked on the journey of these characters.”

Peter is being played by Aaronsaul Negre, while Molly, the second starcatcher, is being played by Alexandria Lee. Neil James is the villainous Captain Stache, while Jackie Thurber is playing the somewhat bumbling but otherwise lighthearted pirate first mate, Smee.

Tickets are available online at www.storybooktheatre.org.

‘An embodiment of what StoryBook is about’

Mallett called the production a real representation of what the theatre is about. It’s giving opportunities to actors at all stages in their careers to take part in major performances.

The cast ranges from young, aspiring performers under 25, up to older performers looking to continue their acting journey through community theatre and possibly to larger Calgary productions.

“The original production was done with 12, and it was done with one female and 11 men. Ours is 50/50 and is a very diverse cast, so it’s a cast that’s really representative of the community that StoryBook lives in and in that StoryBook supports,” Mallett said.

He said that the production is also very family friendly, with different layers for both kids and adults to enjoy.

It also, said Mallett, reflects a more modern understanding of Peter Pan. Removed are the dated and often perceptively racist undertones from the original stories around Indigenous people.

He said that this fits into the critical re-examination of Peter Pan that has occurred in popular culture in recent years.

“It’s certainly addressed a lot of the sort of some of the socio-political elements that I think are problematic about the earlier stories,” Mallett said.

“Part of this show still takes place on a on a tropical island, but rather than leaning into what would now feel like a dated vision of ‘savage natives,’ it’s very playful, and it’s a group of mollusks led by someone who was cooking an Italian restaurant in England.”

Mallett said that audiences could expect to get a real sense of childlike delight from Peter and the Starcatcher.

“It’s an epic story on a on a small scale. There’s shipwrecks, there’s adventure on the high seas, people getting thrown overboard, there’s so much stuff,” he said.

“In the theater, it’s very sort of clever and some of it’s a little bit tongue in cheek and I think, the playfulness of the way that we’re creating the show in the theater I think it’s as much fun to watch us as the show itself.

“I think it’s the show that delights on multiple levels in that way, and I think it’ll be a really rewarding experience for folks.”