Thursday, February 9, 2017

Peter and the Starcatcher (Theater Latte Da)

I loved this production so much that my first sentence of this review needs to solely include the words "See this show if it's the last thing you do because I certainly am going to see it again." Now that that is covered, let's get into the details, shall we?

The play Peter and the Starcatcher is originally based off of the 2006 novel of a similar play by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson adapted for the stage by Rick Elice. It opened on Broadway, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, on April 15, 2012 and was nominated for 9 Tony Awards and won 5. With 18 previews and 319 regular performances, it closed on January 20, 2013. It later re-opened Off-Broadway and included two national tours.

Pearce Bunting as Black Stache and
Tyler Michaels as Peter
Photography by Dan Norman
There is nothing I love more than a wonderfully written origin story and this script does that. The story provides audiences with a backstory on how Peter became Peter Pan (along with a few other explanations including why our favorite crocodile is constantly ticking). It hints at the story we all know and love which brings up plenty of happy, warm and nostalgic emotions for everyone in the audience. This is certainly a new story however I think anyone going to see it should really try not to look up anything about it. I went into this production with no prior knowledge, other than it was simply a Peter Pan origin type story. I'm so glad I did because not knowing anything about it, made it that much more magical to watch.

This is my second time seeing a Theater Latte Da production, however it is my first time seeing a show at their new space, The Ritz Theater. It really is a wonderful and beautiful space. The stage is large and spacious yet the seating and audience space is close and intimate, really allowing yourself to be whisked away into the story. The set, designed by Joel Sass who also directed, is marvelous to look at as it included plenty of trinkets that crawled their way up the proscenium line, all leading up to a beautiful abstract blue octopus that loomed over the stage. This junk yard chic look gave me plenty to look at and observe before the show started. Later in the show, audiences discovered lights that were hidden inside the structure that changed for certain scenes.

Theater Latte Da has consistently produced some high quality productions including some all star casts. The cast of Peter and the Starcatcher brings a whole new meaning to the word "ensemble" as they are constantly in tune and in check with one another. At times actors, who are not directly involved with a specific scene, can be found on a ladder, a stool or somewhere else on the stage acting as a foley artist (one who creates sound effects). The sound effects came in perfectly every time whether it was replicating the ocean crashing against a ship or a more silly sound for a chest opening.
The cast of Peter and the Starcatcher
Photography by Dan Norman

The cast shine as an ensemble and as individuals through out the entire performance, all portraying more than one character at times. Each actor has their moment in the spotlight in which the other actors provide support without stealing the scene. We see Tyler Michaels play the title role of Peter, and of course he did not disappoint. I've had the pleasure of seeing Tyler perform many times and the way he molds into each character is truly inspiring. He dedicates not only himself to the character but the way he interacts with the rest of the cast, never dropping even a hint of energy.

The rest of the cast is equally talented including Pearce Bunting, who had me in stiches from laughing over his hilarious portrayal as the hilarious and flamboyant pirate captain, Black Stache. Megan Burns plays the strong headed and spunky, Molly. Craig Johnson had the audience eating from the palm of his hand the entire night, effortlessly changing characters from Mrs. Bunbrake to Grempkin and even a quick role as a beautiful salmon colored mermaid. Ricardo Beaird is also hilarious in his role as the know it all, self-declared leader of the boys. Silas Sellnow as the orphan Ted, whose persistent search for good food is something we call can relate to.

Peter and the Starcatcher is by far one of the best productions I've seen in quite sometime. It's heartwarming, funny, imaginative and is a shining example of how the Twin Cities performing arts scene is in a league of their own. It is the perfect show for the whole family to see...or even for adults who wish they'd never had to grow up. I certainty can't wait This production runs at the the Ritz Theater through February 26th. Tickets can be found here.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

What's Your Damage, Heather? (Heathers at Twin Cities Community Theatre)

"Heathers: The Musical" is a rock musical with music, lyrics and a book by Laurence O'Keefe (Batboy: The Musical and Legally Blonde: The Musical) and Kevin Murphy. The musical was in development for quite sometime including a sold-out Los Angeles tryout and a concert version before finally moving to Off-Broadway in 2014. The story is about Veronica (played by Winona Ryder in the movie) who manages to become a part of the most popular clique in high school, but she disapproves of the other girls' cruel behavior. When Veronica and her new boyfriend, J.D. confront clique leader Heather Chandler and accidentally poison her, they make it appear a suicide. Soon Veronica realizes that J.D. is intentionally killing students he does not like. She races to stop J.D. while also clashing with the clique's new leader, Heather Duke.

As a fan of the original 1988 American cult black comedy film, I was ecstatic to hear that they were adapting this movie into a musical. It had a rather short run off-Broadway, which is unfortunate because it's a great campy adaption and an even more wonderful score with killer lyrics. They even manage to sneak in all of the iconic lines such as "Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?" and my personal favorite "Fuck me gently with a chainsaw."

I saw the Twin Cities Community Theatre production on Thursday, February 4th and it had some ups and some downs. Many of the actors took their parts a little too realistically and didn't embody the dark comedic elements that the original movie had. The exception to this was Lily Cornwell, who played Heather Chandler. I also appreciated Dylan Cima approach to the role of J.D. It felt like his own but at the same time honoring Christian Slater, who played the original J.D. in the movie. The singing in this production had some notable performances including Tommie Hollingsworth who played Veronica Sawyer. Her belting in the popular song "Dead Girl Walking" was fantastic and she had a wonderful tone to her voice. I think one of the hardest songs to sing in this production is possible "Candy Store" sung by the Heather trio. It needs to evoke power and a serious ear for the harmonies that the three sing. The three Heather's sang this song well but they were just shy from hitting the harmonies perfectly.  While many of the actors still had me laughing at times, I credit most of that to the actual book and lyrics.
J.D. and Veronica during the song "Freeze Your Brain" 
Often I don't blog about technical elements with a show, however I really want to give praise to Matt Jansen (Light Design) and Toniy Hamernick (Light Engineer) to the impressive light show they created for this production. The lighting was absolutely beautiful and really brought some depth to the show visually. I enjoyed that there was an actual permanent structure on stage for this production. Last fall I saw Legally Blonde: The Musical here and was slightly disappointed at the constant roll on set pieces. However the structure for this show gave it some height and more levels for the actors to play with.

If you're a huge fan of the movie, I still recommend going to see this production. It has just about everything that you loved from the movie and is an almost scene by scene adaptation of the movie but with music. This musical is not produced often by many theatre companies s, so I applaud Twin Cities Community Theatre for taking on this show, especially with its questionable content matter.

"Heathers: The Musical" plays Feb. 2nd-Feb. 12th.
Tickets are available online at
*Twin Cities Community Theatre uses Paypal if you wish to purchase tickets ahead of time.

Coffee Talk with Brett is apart of the Twin Cities Theater Blogging group.
Like us on Facebook: Link