The Neverland you never knew: BPA’s ‘Starcatcher’ tells the tale behind the classic fable

Adaptations aplenty and several sequels — perhaps most famously the 1991 film “Hook” — have re-examined and carried on the beloved adventures of Peter Pan, Wendy, Captain Hook and company in the wake of J. M. Barrie’s most famous work.

But what about the events prior Peter’s famously losing his shadow and the Darling children’s subsequent midnight flight?

In “Peter and the Starcatcher,” opening Friday, March 9 at Bainbridge Performing Arts, audiences get to find out more about Neverland, spy trouble ahead for a decidedly two-handed pirate baddie, and are introduced to a rather recognizable Boy.

The story’s two young stars are typically portrayed by adult thespians, explained production manager Deirdre Hadlock. But BPA decided to go another way.

“Traditionally, the two leads, Molly and Peter — or Boy — are adults playing young people, but we have chose to cast them closer to their age,” she said. “So, they’re actual young performers playing young characters.”

Molly is played by Sophie Eldridge and the titular Boy by Julian Mudge-Burns.

“It was an option for us going into casting and then we had some really strong performers at callbacks that were younger, so we went with that option,” Hadlock said. “It’s really worked out well, it’s been really fun.”

The Tony Award-winning play upends the century-old story of how a miserable orphan comes to be The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up (aka Peter Pan). From marauding pirates and jungle tyrants to unwilling comrades and unlikely heroes, this wildly theatrical adaptation playfully explores the depths of greed and despair — and the bonds of friendship, duty and love.

A young orphan and his mates are shipped off from Victorian England to a distant island ruled by the evil King Zarboff. They know nothing of the mysterious trunk in the captain’s cabin, which contains an otherworldly cargo. At sea, the boys are discovered by a precocious young girl named Molly, a Starcatcher-in-training, who realizes that the trunk’s precious cargo is “starstuff,” a celestial substance so powerful that it must never fall into the wrong hands.

When the ship is taken over by pirates, led by the fearsome Black Stache, a villain determined to claim the trunk and its treasure for his own, the journey quickly becomes a thrilling adventure.

“You see the genesis of the story and you see the characters before they become what they become in the Peter Pan story,” Hadlock said.

The play premiered at the La Jolla Playhouse in California in 2004, and was actually on BPA’s acquisition radar once before.

“We actually had scheduled it in our season … last season, and a professional company in Seattle was doing it,” Hadlock said. “So, we lost the rights.

“We’re thrilled to finally get to produce it.”

The appeal of the show, in addition to the story, is that it’s visually captivating and physically complex, Hadlock said.

“It’s a lot of creating the ship out of ropes and crates and it’s a lot of theater magic,” she said. “That really appeals to me. I love that kind of storytelling. I think everybody was kind of captivated by that.

“It’s a very tall order,” she added. “There’s a lot of lifts and carrying and moving and there’s a dance number. There’s a lot of creating pictures using the actors bodies and various set pieces.”

Helming the production is returning director Ken Michels.

“Ken is perfect for that kind of picture,” Hadlock said. “That’s his forte. He does really well with physical comedy, physical storytelling. He’s a great choreographer.”

Aimee Hong is the show’s music director, a role she first filled for the company’s production of “Big Fish.”

“Peter and the Starcatcher” has only a few actual musical numbers, she said, but includes a lot of in-story singing — which can actually be more difficult to direct.

“This show is interesting musically because it’s a straight play with some songs,” Hong said. “We’re going to be doing a lot of underscore to this show.”

Much of the “musical” requirements are actually Foley-type sounds: the reproduction of actual, real-world noises using instruments and tools like thunder sheets and “rain sticks.”

“Most of the shows that I have done have been stop-and-sing musicals,” Hong said. “So this is kind of my first foray into a show with underscore, but the composers laid it out really well and it’s exciting. It’s something different and I’m looking forward to it.”

The rest of the cast includes Jason Gingold, Lisa Wright, Kylee Gano, Nelsen Spickard, Colleen Gillon, Ben Cournoyer, Kevin Tanner, Sadie Gingold, Robert Craighead, Meghan Lynn Newon, Matt Eldridge, Max Lopuszynski, Jaron Boggs, D’Arcy Clements and Libby Clements.

The show, appropriate for all ages, will run Friday, March 9 through Sunday, March 25, with evening shows Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m.

The run includes a pay-what-you-can preview at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 8 and the opening night reception at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 9.

Tickets, $29 for adults, $24 for seniors, students, youth, military, and teachers, may be purchased online at, by phone at 206-842-8569, or in person at the BPA box office, (200 Madison Ave. North).