Two years ago, Catherine Ruddy was cavorting and singing around the stage as the green-clad titular character in Sioux City Community Theatre’s production of “Peter Pan.” Now at Lamb Arts Regional Theatre, Ruddy will once again return to a world of pirates, Lost Boys and endless adventure in “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
The Tony Award-winning musical is described as a grownup’s prequel to “Peter Pan.” Ruddy stars as Molly Aster, a daughter of a famous starcatcher. Molly meets up with an orphaned boy who was never given a name, and together they embark on a mission to save the world and journey to a faraway land. That boy, of course, is Peter Pan.
Comparing her current role as Molly to her 2014 portrayal of Peter Pan, Ruddy said the two share many different qualities. She wondered if Molly’s personality may have rubbed off on Peter.
“Molly has a lot in common with the Pan version I played,” she said. “They’re both very mischievous, cunning, curious -- definitely some parallels. It’s fun to play a character that’s similar but also very different. ”
The play serves as an origin story for many of the characters, places and things in “Peter Pan.” Ruddy said there are even a collection of small, hidden features throughout the play that fans of the characters and story will enjoy.
After nearly 108 years, the story of “Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up” by novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie continues to be a popular choice for adaptations. We’ve seen Peter in TV shows, Broadway plays, Saturday morning cartoons, Hollywood movies and even video games.
Why are the character and the tale of Neverland so attractive?
“I think a big part of it is the imagination aspect, because it gives the audience a chance to tap into that part of their brain that they might not get to use very often,” said Ruddy. “And it also appeals to all ages.”
Director Russ Wooley saw “Peter and the Starcatcher” on Broadway two years in a row. The first time he watched the show, he was enthralled by the fantasy and the music. He opted to see the play a second time to see it all again -- and Wooley knew he was going to produce it at Lamb.
When you saw it a second time, what were you making mental note of?
Wooley: The spirit. I wanted to get as much stuff as I could once I saw it again. There’s such marvelous things going on. You have 11 men and one woman, and they begin the show as just a group of storytellers. Then, boom, we’re off! There are ships and pirates and Captain Robert Scott and Lord Astor and The Lost Boys -- the actors play all those. It’s a great, great storytelling opportunity.
What stories are being told in this prequel?
Wooley: That’s hard to tell. You have to make that up as an audience member yourself. You have to fill in some of the blanks. By the end of the show, you’re going, “Oh… Ohhhh.” It’s a play with music. I never considered it a musical. It is licensed as a musical. It certainly isn’t a musical with a big song, another big song and 15 smaller songs. The songs that are there are pertinent and important and really fun.
Why do you think stories of Peter Pan are always getting adapted?
Wooley: J.M. Barrie hit upon a magical world that we all want to be a part of. Can you think of anyone at some point in their life where they didn’t say, "I don’t want to grow up. I just want to be young. I just want to be a little boy or I just want to be a little girl.” That’s something we can never obtain in reality. Finding a way and finding that joy and innocence of being young and being Peter Pan and being young and vital and frolicking and full of mischief -- ah, that’s what we want.