Before Peter Pan, before Tinkerbell, before Captain Hook and before Neverland, there was a little orphaned boy with no name.
Peter and the Starcatcher is the magical story about how this boy ended up on a ship bound for Rundoon, where he finds a magical chest full of stardust, meets a precocious girl named Molly and a fearsome pirate named Black Stache.
The Tony-award -winning comical adventure, written by Rick Elice and based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, reveals the origins of Peter Pan, Wendy, Tinkerbell, the Lost Boys and Captain Hook, and the far-off place called Neverland.
Garibaldi secondary interdisciplinary arts teacher and director Cynthia Lacroix describes it as a magical childhood journey. She first saw the play in New York City, where she also studies at The Broadway Teaching Group.
The writers and directors were in one of her master classes.
“It talks to your child,” Lacroix said of the play.
“When you are looking at it, you remember Peter Pan and you remember your love of Tinkerbell and you remember your fear of Captain Hook,” said Lacroix, adding that it also speaks to the adults in the audience.
“There are glimpses of a potential truth. How we really did treat our children in 1800 and what it would have been like to be an orphan. So there are these little smatterings of reality in with this beautiful children’s tale,” she said.
Peter and the Starcatcher will be one of the most challenging plays the students at Garibaldi have ever put on.
For one thing, it is a text-driven play.
“It’s been really interesting to watch them go through those kinds of excruciating memorizing times,” laughed Lacroix, adding that they have to be 98 per cent perfect with their lines now to be perfect for opening night.
“There is more text in this play than Garibaldi has seen in a really long time,” she said.
“And it’s tough language because it is written with a restoration bent and they can’t ad-lib around it, they can’t improv around it, or the comedy won’t hit its punchline,” Lacroix explained.
Also, every cast member in the play is on stage 98 per cent of the time. They have to play their lead character, then change to a sub-plot character, then everybody takes a turn narrating the show.
There are no props people helping the actors.
All of the props are on the set and every cast member has to figure out how to get to their props when they need them.
“This is the hardest part they are just understanding now: ‘Oh my god, there is no props person on set waiting to give me what I need or boxing my stuff up’,” said Lacroix.
The timing of the play is also difficult.
“You cannot be forgetting a line. It has to be perfect and that is hard for a student to be perfect,” Lacroix said, comparing it to improvised jazz, but in a really tight script.
“You won’t know when you are supposed to start the piano,” Lacroix said of her music director, who will be playing live during the performance.
“There are times when the piano is played with the musicians’ arms. She has got to play them until that farcical moment ends and the kids have got to be precise.”
Most of the other musicians are on stage. They have to get to a spot on stage, pick up an instrument, wait for a line and perform one little thing, like hitting a triangle, which, in turn, will cue something else.
“It’s not like you have a perfect little band over there being stage managed by somebody saying their cue. It’s all interwoven,” said Lacroix.
Zack Caissie is playing the villain Black Stache in the production, and Jack Voncina is playing the 13-year-old orphaned boy who is eventually named Peter.
Lacroix personally asked both of the Grade 12 students to audition for the play.
“I had to solidify the two lead boys before even considering doing the play,” explained Lacroix.
“You need to make certain that you’ve got kids who are going to bear down and do this and also have the talent to do it before you even hold the auditions,” she continued.
She also wouldn’t have considered doing this production without stage manager and Grade 12 student Cam Choo.
“Nobody would be on that stage if Cam wasn’t stage managing the show,” said Lacroix.
Voncina only leaves the stage once during the whole production.
“I can’t break character. I am always Peter when I am on stage. I don’t break character for the full three hours,” said Voncina.
Caissie’s biggest challenge is the language and bringing Stache from the script to the stage without losing anything.
“We use restoration language with modern jokes. Especially for Stash. I know what he wants to say. I really struggle to say it how he would,” said Caissie.
Both actors agree that one of the main messages of the play is never losing your inner child.
“We’ve all got one and it’s just so important as you go through your stages in life that you hold on to a piece of that,” Caissie said.
The Garibaldi Interdisciplinary Arts Academy presents Peter and the Starcatcher from Feb. 21 to 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the Garibaldi Theatre, 248th Street at Dewdney Trunk Road. Tickets are $17 for adults and $15 for students and seniors and are available at Little Cricket Gift Gallery, 22347 Lougheed Highway, Unit 102, at the Garibaldi secondary office or at the door the night of. For more information, call 604-463-6287.