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Seeing Stars at South Coast Repertory

Written By: Avra Kouffman

Photography By: Debora Robinson/ SCR

A “crowd-pleaser” in a nutshell — that’s South Coast Repertory’s “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Saturday evening was packed out: seats jammed full of high school seniors, senior citizens and theatergoers of every age in between. The show, a prequel to “Peter Pan, ” is a pirate extravaganza based on Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s popular multi-book series. The adventure story involves several orphaned boys, a slew of pirates and a sole girl: young Molly, played by Gabrielle McClinton.

While McClinton holds her own as the only female on stage, it’s Matt McGrath as the pirate chief, “Black Stache, ” who really throws the audience into hysterics. Within a short time of his entrance, he had the crowd in fits of laughter. The man behind me laughed so long and loudly, I wondered how often he got out of the house. Although “Starcatcher’s” chaotic adventure plot is something of a shaggy dog story, pirate hijinks and pop culture references keep the audience entertained throughout.

As usual, SCR offers excellent production values. A friend described the set as “industrial fusion steampunk, ” since it features acres of scaffolding on wheels and hanging ropes. Though the visual set-up is striking, the best thing about the set is how it’s used, and here the credit goes to Art Manke, the show’s choreographer and director. For over 2 hours, a band of pirates zoomed around the stage — up, down, every which way — like a small army of ants swirling out in all directions. The sheer amount of planning that must have gone into the choreography was mind-blowing. To their credit, the actors performed with energy and gusto throughout.

After the cast received a standing ovation, I decided to play fly-on-the-wall reporter. Here’s what I heard in the SCR lobby: “It was so amazing, ” a young woman said. “I don’t think I could’ve kept a straight face, ” said a young man. Two adults told friends, “That was fantastic, ” and “Too cute!” But an adorable little girl best summed up the audience’s reaction: “I feel so good, ” she chirped, skipping out into the lobby in her sparkly dress.

“Peter and the Starcatcher” runs until June 7 at South Coast Repertory.

South Coast Plaza
655 Town Center Dr
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714.708.5555 | www.scr.org