Cast member of "Peter and the Starcatcher" include (from left) Emma Schrader, Ricky Raffaele, Taya Johnson and Joey Russoniello. Photo by Victor Moreno

IF YOU GO
What: Peter and the Starcatcher
Who: MHS Theatre Company
When: Oct. 24-26, 7 p.m., matinee Oct. 26, 2 p.m.
Where: MHS Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
How much: $5 students; $7 general admission, $10 VIP
ASL interpretation available

Despite a late changeout of the entire show just before auditions, Maricopa High School Theatre Company is making fast work of its fall production, “Peter & the Starcatcher.”

An origin story for “Peter Pan,” which the troupe performed last fall, “Peter and the Starcatcher” became celebrated for its sets and costuming in its Tony-Award-winning run in 2012.

“It’s the prequel, so it has so many sweet moments that tell you how Peter Pan came and how the story they fell in love with last year exists,” said theater instructor Alexandra Stahl, who directs the play.

Stahl had wanted to wait another year or two before producing “Starcatcher” because of the close proximity to last year’s production. MHS Theatre Company planned to perform “She Kills Monsters,” a nerd comedy drawing inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons, but in mid-July the administration asked Stahl for something less controversial for now.

What made “Starcatcher” work well in the shortened timeframe was the fact many in the company were already well-versed in the basic story and were excited about the project. There is lots of word play and definitely pirates.

“It started out with some of the same characters, and that made it a little bit easier,” Stahl said, “but I didn’t want to bring back the red Hook coat, because I didn’t want people to be like, ‘That’s Hook!’”

Stahl was looking for “youthful innocence” in the casting of the orphan known only as Boy for much of the show. That turned out to be sophomore Joey Russoniello.

“Honestly, I love the show,” Russoniello said. “We saw the show when we went to Nationals over the summer. I never thought it would even be a possibility for me to play this role. And then we ended up doing the show.”

A singer before joining the company as a freshman, Russoniello has had to step up his acting skills.

“It’s a really good challenge,” he said. “That was something I really needed to develop, and this show is really pushing me to do that.”

Junior Taya Johnson plays Molly, who eventually is revealed to be [spoiler alert] the Starcatcher. In “Peter Pan” last year, she played Michael.

She describes Molly as a 13-year-old Victorian with an unusual educational upbringing and independent character. She watched a bootleg version of the original show on YouTube a couple of times and also fell in love with the story.

“It’s my first lead role, so I’m very nervous,” Johnson said. “I’m really happy I have the opportunity to do this play.”

The play does not lean heavily on either of the titular roles.

“It’s basically storytelling theatre. There’s no one person who is the star,” Stahl said. “They’re all telling the story together. Many play multiple characters throughout the show. There’s some points where these characters are listed in the script as ‘Narrator Molly’ or ‘Narrator Boy.’”

Cast: Boy (Peter) – Joey Russoniello; Prentis – Emma Schrader; Ted – Ricky Raffaele; Lord Leonard Aster – Simon Ty; Molly Aster – Taya Johnson; Mrs. Bumbrake – Haley Lemon; Captain Robert Scott – John Jackson; Grempkin – Aliyah Garcia; Bill Slank – Douglas Moulton; Alf – Derek Blakely; Mack – Angelina George; Black Stache – Julie Goodrum; Smee – Jae Luna; Sanchez – Mary Brokenshire; Fighting Prawn – Mary Brokenshire; Hawking Clam – Grace Goodrum; Teacher – Haley Raffaele; Ensemble – Morgan Cutrara, Gracee Clark, Ashton Crosniak, Isabella Netro, Astraya Ellyson


This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Victor Moreno

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