Parkland Peter Starcatcher3

The cast of the Parkland Theatre production of 'Peter and the Starcatcher' — front row seated, from left, Wesley Bennett as Scott, Thom Billam as Ted, Parker Evans as Prentiss and Rachel Hejmanowski as Smee; and back row, from left, Stephanie Swearingen as Grempkin, Sam Gegg as Mack, Lincoln Machula as Aster, Emaline Johnson as Molly, Zoe Dunn as Bumbrake, Jess Schlipf as Boy, Tommy Howie as Alf, Laura Alcantara as Slank and Jace Jamison as Stache — is shown during rehearsal Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, at the college in Champaign.

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For more than a century, audiences have been fascinated by J.M Barrie’s tales of Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t grow up.

The character first appeared in a play Barrie wrote in 1904, and he continues to inspire imaginations everywhere, including those of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, authors of a new series of children’s books that re-imagine Peter’s magical world.

The first book in the series, “Peter and the Starcatcher” is a delightful adventure that establishes the backstory for Peter Pan and Captain Hook.

In the stage version of this tale now playing at the Harold and Jean Miner Theatre, we meet three orphans, Boy (Peter), Ted and Prentiss, just as they are being sold to the sinister Bill Slank, captain of the ship Neverland.

The enterprising Slank has purloined the Queen’s cargo, swapping it with an identical trunk when each arrived at port.

Slank assumes the Queen’s trunk is filled with treasures and gold, but in truth, the trunk is filled with “starstuff,” a mysterious compound that gives people and animals magical powers.

Lord Aster’s daughter Molly, a starcatcher, befriends the boys and keeps them engaged with stories of her fathers’s mission for the Queen — to collect starstuff and dispose of it in the world’s hottest volcano, Mount Jalapeno, to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

Meanwhile, Black Stache, Captain of the ship Wasp, discovers the trunks have been switched, and he and his crew, still believing the Queen’s cargo holds treasures and gold, set their sights on catching the Neverland and getting their hands on the goods.

Director Mathew Green has created a visually stunning magical world that is fully engaging for audiences of all ages.

Superior lighting by Konrad Ciolkosz enhance the production that also features a flexible set design that allowed for a swift pace.

Completing the picture, Costume Designer Sheri Doyle provides a creative and colorful ensemble that is especially clever at the start of the second act. Jace Jamison is deliciously wicked as Black Stache, and Jess Schlipf captures the youthful exuberance of Peter. Additional kudos to Emaline Johnson, as Molly, and Sam Gegg, as the Fighting Prawn.

While not a musical in the traditional sense, “Peter and the Starcatcher” does have a musical component, which plays an important role in the overall storytelling. Melissa Goldman and Stephanie Swearingen provide musical accompaniment. Though pleasant, the vocals seemed a bit uncertain at times, and could have used a little tightening.

“Peter and The Starcatcher” is a wonderful experience to share with your children and grandchildren.

For more sensitive audience members, the cast will be performing a “lights up, sound down,” sensory-safe matinee at 3 p.m. Nov. 17.

Tricia Stiller is the downtown division manager for Bloomington Community Development and the artistic director for Bloomington's Summer Theatre Program.