April 26 2017 01:11 PM

‘Peter and the Star Catcher’ brings Action, spectacle to Lebowsky Center stage

Before we get into the review proper, let’s pause to acknowledge the superb direction and choreography in Owosso Community Players’ production of “Peter and the Star Catcher,” an obscure, not-so-well-known tale. They say it takes a village to raise a child; maybe it takes two directors to tackle such an interesting quasi-musical production.

In this case, co-directors Garrett Bradley and Anna Owens have combined forces to put together one of the most balanced comedy/musicals I’ve seen this year. Bradley doubles as choreographer, raising an interesting question: In a quasi-musical, where does exquisite staging end and excellent choreography begin?

In a cast of 12 actors portraying 16 characters, there isn’t a single actor who doesn’t move well, and each character has unique traits. Many are costumed as sailors or pirates, and all of them displayed a sturdy, garrulous pirate-English accent. Arrr!

In the middle of the complex chaos of artful action is Molly Aster, the star catcher, played by Isabella Abuan. A high school student, Aster looks all of 15 years old in costume. It’s impressive that someone this young could be such a major contributor to a substantial community theater production. She nails it, doing more than holding her own against an energetic cadre of men and boys. She owns the stage, captivating the audience.

The story, adapted by Rick Elice, is based on a novel of a similar name written by comedian Dave Barry and Ridley Peterson. It is written as a prequel to J. M Barrie’s stories of Peter Pan.

Fortunately, the thin, wispy plot is subordinate to performances in this production, as the cast and crew pull out all the bells and whistles to dazzle the audience. Set designers Dirk Rennick and Dan Wenzlick have pulled to gether a crew of eleven carpenter-helpers to assemble the largest pile of scrap lumber you can imagine, stacked and painted to a rich mahogany to suggest the interior hull of an ancient sailing ship. The addition of a smoke machine to suggest an ocean mist adds an abstract authenticity to the explosive movements of the cast.

A word about actor Adam Woolsey, listed in the program as “Black Stache,” a thinly disguised Captain Hook. Woolsey, a fine character actor who has demonstrated versatility in many mid-Michigan dramatic roles, demonstrates that he can handle exaggerative comedic roles as well. He is a finely tuned piece of volatile commercial dynamite on stage, and, if there was any confusion whatsoever, he elevates the entire production into super-campy shtick.

Artis White, in the supporting role of Bill Slank, is a whip-cracking badass who heads up a gaggle of supporting actors, each adding texture and tone to the production. The title character of Peter, listed in the program merely as “Boy,” is one of three “lost boys,” and each contributes humorous bits to their roles.

I would be remiss not to mention the mermaid scene that opens up Act Two, in which Woolsey leads the crew in song-and dance, each of the men garishly costumed as excessively bosomy mermaids. Costume designer Mistie Jordan, can I count on you for my Halloween costume this year? Wow! Rarely does an audience erupt with such an immediate mid-show uproar and standing ovation. I am still smiling.

“Peter and the Star Catcher”

Owosso Community Players 8 p.m. Friday, April 28-Saturday, April 29; 3 p.m. Sunday, April 30 $15/$13.50 seniors and students/$7.50 children The Lebowsky Center 122 E. Main St., Owosso (989) 723-4003, owossoplayers.com