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Mischief? Flying cats? St. Louis author Ridley Pearson on The Rep's ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’

Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
"Peter and the Starcatcher" ensemble under starlight.

On any given day, the world of Broadway wheelin’ and dealin’ feels pretty far away from St. Louis, Missouri. Not so for author Ridley Pearson, who makes his home here. As the co-author of the popular series “Peter and the Starcatchers” with writer Dave Barry, Pearson has been involved in that world as his book has been adapted for the Broadway stage.

In the mid-2000s, Disney Theatrical Productions, the play producing arm of the media powerhouse, adapted the prequel to “Peter Pan” with the help of writer Rick Elice and called it “Peter and the Starcatcher.” The play was performed on Broadway from 2012 to 2013 and then toured the country—that’s when it first came to St. Louis.

Now, the play will now be performed by The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis for almost a month, from December 2 to December 27. Pearson, a long-time patron of the theatre could not be more excited to see his work come to the St. Louis stage.

“When it toured here, it was really exciting,” Pearson told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter.  “But that isn’t the St. Louis stamp on it. My wife and I have been going to The Rep for 15 years. We kept saying, ‘Maybe someday.’”

The story was incepted when Pearson’s daughter asked him “How did Peter meet Captain Hook?” With no viable answer in hand, Pearson went off to write the book.

Credit The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Although the story is functionally a prequel to “Peter Pan,” the story is actually quite original. As Pearson describes it, the books follow an entire society of “starcatchers” who grab meteors that fall to earth and possess a certain charming substance.

“If you’re Hitler, it can charm you one way,” Pearson said. “If you’re DaVinci, it can charm you another way.”

The play differs from the books because, instead of focusing on the entire swath of starcatchers, it focuses on two—Peter and Molly.

“We felt the focus on the play should be the story of a young woman and a young man who come together as dear friends and one of them runs into a crazy encounter and will never grow old,” Pearson said. “And what happens to us in our hearts when we form such a great friendship and you think it is so exciting to never grow old until you realize this person you care for is going to grow old without you.”

While the story does go into the back story of Peter Pan, both Pearson and The Rep’s artistic director Steve Woolf, want people to know this story isn’t for kids. In fact, it is recommended for those ages 12 and up.

“It is not ‘Little Mermaid,’” Pearson said. “It is very adult in that the jokes are a million miles an hour. They go right over the kids’ heads which is good because some of them are on the edge of bawdy. It is so entertaining because Rick’s script is rapid-fire wit.”

You can, however, expect a bit of whimsy—there’s a chest of “star stuff,” pirates, dancing mermaids, mischief and even flying cats. Fun music is also incorporated into the production.

“Here’s what’s great about this play: If you squint, it could be 1898,” Pearson said. “There’s nothing high-tech magical about this. It is 10 or 12 actors on the stage playing 50 roles and doing so very fluidly and easily understood. There are songs that cheer you up. Moments you want to cry. If there were gas lamps up there, it could be back 150 years”

Related Event

What: "Peter and the Starcatcher" at The Rep
When: December 2 - 27, 2015, Various Times
Where: Browning Mainstage at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves
More information.

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer, and Kelly Moffitt. The show is sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.    

Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.