PREVIEW: ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ will be Belmont’s biggest theater production

Updated: Sep 20

A nostalgic family favorite will grace the modern stage as the curtain opens on “Peter and the Starcatcher” Friday, making it the first student-led drama to debut in the new Fisher Center for the Performing Arts.

A prequel to “Peter Pan” by J.M. Barrie, this Broadway-run origin story follows an orphan boy with a painful past and the friends and enemies he encounters on their journey to find himself, find Neverland and never grow up.

“One of the things that’s great about the play is how funny it is and how energetic it is and it’s filled with action and adventure and all kinds of stuff, but at the same time there are these moments that just kind of catch your breath,” said director Shawn Knight.

“It’s got a lot of heartfelt story to it as well and a lot of searching in these characters to find home and to find their group of people and to find a place in the world.”

The cast is a collaborative team of Belmont students, two department professionals — Brent Maddox as Blackstache and Eric Pasto-Crosby as Smee — and one Equity actor, Sam Whited, as Lord Aster.

The drama and the humor make the play perfect for all ages, said Knight, full of magic and imagination that beckons the audience’s inner child.

“The script at first glance … is deceptively simple,” said sophomore Nathaniel Caudill, the assistant stage manager on the production. “It’s fun, it’s witty, it’s humorous. But a lot of the story comes down to the idea of making something out of nothing.”

What was intended to be a minimalistic production is expanding to a larger scale on a larger stage, twice as long and twice as deep as Belmont’s smaller Troutt Theater.

In the land of make-believe with a little pixie dust, piles of junk can become three-story pirate ships.

“We’re actually going counterintuitive to what this production style is,” said set and lighting designer Paul Gatrell, a Belmont theater professor. “It’s supposed to be crates and boxes … the size is supposed to be intimate and small.”

Leaving the Troutt at last, Knight and the production crew are taking the show in a different direction to match the grandeur of the Fisher Center. The biggest adjustment — blocking the entire show sideways, not toward the audience, so it takes up the expanse of the longer stage.

“The nature of the auditorium we’re in is demanding those bold choices … this gives us the chance to see what happens if we put it on a larger scale, on a larger stage, more design elements,” said Knight.

The upscaling of the story doesn’t undermine the intimacy of the storytelling. With bursts of energy, animated acting and creative imagination, the childlike playfulness is maintained in this fairytale.

And as for some senior students, this debut performance in the Fisher Center marks their last as a Belmont student, making the grand stage special first greeting and solemn final goodbye.

Leading man senior Sam Costantino is bookending his college acting career by reprising the role of Peter, which he played in high school as part of the same production. But years later, he’s now analyzing the role with a fresh lens, reading the script as though for the first time, he said.

Peter finds his identity and receives his name in this play but struggles to find acceptance and approval. Constantino relates to his character in the same way.

“The message of acceptance from your peers and what each person is always looking for from the people around them … really resonates. It’s the easiest thing we forget to do to: extend dignity or to extend grace to people who are going through things because people are always going through things,” he said.

“The show takes you out of your own ego for a minute.”

“Peter and the Starcatcher” also holds a special place in the heart of leading lady Lexi Bresnan, who plays Molly Aster, the eventual mother of Wendy Darling. This personal touch makes her love the story even more than she did growing up.

Molly is a funny and sassy Starcatcher with a mission — to gain her father’s approval. She is determined to succeed and Bresnan hopes to share a little part of herself in Molly, she said.

“I think this is such a good accumulation of the past four years. This is my last semester of college, so this is my final role before going out into the world,” said Bresnan of her capstone role. “This has everything that I have learned so far in college in it and the fact that I get to show it off in such a really huge space with a lot of really awesome people.”

The action-packed pirate adventure runs from this Friday to Sunday in the Fisher Center, and tickets are available online here.

“Peter and the Starcatcher” will be directed by Shawn Knight with set and lighting design by Paul Gatrell. Adapted for the stage by Rick Elise from the young adult novels of the same name by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.

PHOTO: A scale model of the set for “Peter and the Starcatcher,” with elements designed to fill the Fisher Center stage. Reyna Galvez / Belmont Vision

This article was written by Jaymey Hedberg, Reyna Galvez and Gus Sneh.

#studenttheater #theaterpreview #ShawnKnight #PaulGatrell #theater #PeterandtheStarcatcher #LexiBresnan #FisherCenterforthePerformingArts #SamConstantino #NathanielCaudill

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