Pan-demonium: Peter and the Starcatcher(s)

Peter and the StarcatchersSince 2004, humorist Dave Barry and mystery writer Ridley Pearson have turned their attention to a beloved young adult series, re-imagining J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan  in their Peter and the Starcatchers books (there are five to date, plus three related junior books in the Never Land series). They begin by looking at the origin of Peter Pan, in his first adventures with Wendy Darling’s mother Molly and his clashes with the pirate Black Stache and others.

The chain of adaptation continued in 2009, when playwright Rick Elice (previously best known for Jersey Boys) adapted it into a rollicking comedy with music. Trimming the “s” off the Peter and the Starcatcher playend of Barry and Pearson’s title, his play is Peter and the Starcatcher. It’s a great play, made by Elice’s wordplay, sly cultural references, and eccentric characters. He creates an update that modern audiences will probably like better than the classic Pan adaptations and that theaters can produce without the expensive requirements to fly actors.

Peter and the StarcatcherIt’s also a play that can’t be completely captured on the page, depending on the comic embellishments of a particular production, the physical comedy, and the clever use of a few simple ropes, ladders, chests, and common objects to create a variety of locations and objects on the stage. Still, if you like humor, Peter Pan, or theater, you’ll love Peter and the Starcatcher: the Annotated Script of the Broadway Play. It’s loaded with great color illustrations. Elice, Barry, Pearson, and others contribute annotations that will help you pinpoint all of their references and that explain the genesis of the play from a local production to a Broadway smash.

Book groups don’t need to choose. They Tigerheartshould make a whole themed evening out of Peter Pan. Consider the Barrie originals, Peter David’s re-telling Tigerheart, Jodi Lynn Anderson’s young adult novel Tiger Lily, Brom’s dark graphic The Child Thief, and the biographies, both even-handed and scurrilous, of the complicated Barrie. Add a viewing of the film Finding Neverland to the mix for even more delights. The boy who wouldn’t grow up is an important archetype and your group will love exploring the many versions of the legend.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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