Stars align for WCHS theater in lesser-known prequel


Photo courtesy of Spencer Swetlow

“Peter and the Starcatcher” starts off the second act by transforming into mermaids as magic took over the water. Actors were able to have fun while wearing eccentric costumes and dancing around the stage.

By Jordan Pashkoff, Editor-in-Chief

Ask anyone to name a few Disney characters and undoubtedly, many will say at least one of the iconic characters from Disney’s 1953 film “Peter Pan.” Whether it is Peter Pan, Tinker Bell or Captain Hook, these characters were a part of everyone’s childhood. But, how did they get to Neverland? The answer can be found in “Peter and the Starcatcher,” the WCHS winter play. 

Based on Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s book “Peter and the Starcatchers,” “Peter and the Starcatcher follows a nameless orphan called Boy and two other orphans as they meet the renowned starcatcher, Lord Aster’s daughter Molly. Together, they go on an adventure to find and keep the treasure chest of “starstuff” out of the hands of the evil Black Stache. Ultimately, the boy emerges in the “starstuff” giving him the ability to fly, turning him into the Peter Pan we know today, while Black Stache accidentally cuts his hand off, emerging as the notorious Captain Hook. Filled with excitement and entertainment, “Peter and the Starcatcher” is filled with twists and turns, making it fun for the whole family. 

WCHS’s “Peter and the Starcatcher” was performed four times between Feb. 10 and Feb. 12 for an eager crowd. Impressively, the production was run almost entirely by students with the help of the director and theatre teacher, Naomi Kieval. 

“This show is a form of storytelling theater, where the ensemble comes together and devises their own spin on the show. What makes this show unique and joyful is the playful collaboration with my cast to help create the story,” Kieval said.  “For most other productions, I come into each rehearsal with a very specific game plan, knowing what I want to see and have happen on stage. With this show, I came in with activities for the cast to do to see what they could come up with to tell the story.”

On top of acting, student leaders were in charge of tech, lighting, sound, choreography, set design and costumes, a feat that should not go unnoticed. Creativity definitely shined through the costumes each character wore, whether it was Mrs. Bumbrake’s patterned dress or the unforgettable mermaid outfits. 

“Besides acting, I was also the choreographer for the show so I created all of the movements and dancing in the finale of act one, ‘Swim On,’ and the opening of Act II, ‘The Mermaid Song.’ I choreographed all of that and ran the rehearsals for them,” senior Aliyah Primich, who played the orphan Prentiss, said. “I was also on Costume Crew, where I was involved in helping create the inspiration for all of our characters. We rented a lot of our costumes for the show so I helped out a lot with costuming each of our individual characters in those pieces and making sure that they were cohesive with each other and with the group.”

Not only was this play captivating and subtly emotional with phenomenal acting performances from the cast, but it was also visually appealing. Credit deserves to go to the tech crew for their hard work and impeccable execution on the ship set. 

“I meet with our Master Carpenter, Karl Boehler, Painting Head, Elizabeth Seldin and Shop Managers, Owen Finke & Aidan Robertson, along with the Student Directors and Staff Directors. Everyone shares ideas for the set and sketches are drawn,” senior and Student Technical Director Spencer Swetlow said. “These plans continue to evolve until we all feel confident that we have a creative and innovative set that can also be built to be safe and effective for the show and its performers. The technical crew then follows the plans and builds the set.”

Speaking strictly on the performance aspect, “Peter and the Starcatcher” hit all the right marks. The show was simply fun for everyone in the audience. Whether sitting in the front row or in the back, laughter from the crowd could be heard throughout the entirety of the show; all that could be seen were smiles and sheer excitement of family and friends. Not only did the audience enjoy the performance, but the crew got to see their hard work successfully excite the crowd. 

“One of my favorite parts of being in the theater department is the excitement of designing the lighting and solving issues that arise in the execution of the technical plans,” Swetlow said. “It is very rewarding to watch the show come alive on opening night in front of an audience.”

A lot of work goes into these productions, and the entire cast earned a standing ovation for both their performance and the work they put into the show. It is clear the cast has built a friendship both on and off the stage by how well they all work and act together and act. Watching the actors have fun on stage made the viewing experience even more enjoyable. 

“The best thing about the play this year was the people. That’s the reason I come back to the shows each year,” Primich said. “Obviously, I love performing and I love being on stage so much, but what I love most about theater is the community and the people I get to hang out with every day. It’s so nice to just be able to hang out with them and have fun with them.”