MORGANTOWN — The same thing that drew Hugh Hysell to become a producer of the Tony Award-winning “Peter and the Starcatcher” is what makes the New York-based actor love being a part of the production, which West Virginia Public Theatre will present at 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday and Wednesday-June 9 and 2 p.m. Sunday and June 10 at the Gladys G. Davis Theatre at the WVU Creative Arts Center.
“It’s a highly creative show,” he said. “It’s a ton of fun, like when we were kids and would invent a story and use anything and everything we have available to us to tell that story.”
The family-friendly play is based on the 2004 novel “Peter and the Starcatchers” by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. It explains Peter Pan’s back-story, as well as those of Mrs. Darling, Tinker Bell and Hook.
After premiering at the La Jolla Playhouse, the production debuted off-Broadway in 2011 and opened on Broadway in 2012. Before ending its run in 2013, it took home four Tony Awards for design. Christian Borle also won Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play as Black Stache.
The cast of 13 in WVPT’s version portrays more than 100 roles and uses everyday objects, from pieces of string and boards to umbrellas and cloth, to set the magical scene.
In “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a young orphan and his mates are shipped off from Victorian England to a distant island ruled by the evil King Zarboff. They know nothing of the mysterious trunk in the captain’s cabin, which contains a precious, otherworldly cargo.
At sea, the boys are discovered by a precocious young girl named Molly, who realizes that the trunk’s cargo is starstuff, a celestial substance so powerful that it must never fall into the wrong hands.
When the ship is taken over by pirates — led by Black Stache, a villain determined to claim the trunk and its treasure for his own — the journey becomes a thrilling adventure.
While Hysell takes on five parts, only two have names — Molly’s nanny Mrs. Bumbrake and Teacher, a mermaid who helps Peter on his journey.
“As the nanny, I put on a bonnet and a full skirt. And I look like a football player. I’m 6’4,” he said. “So to see this masculine guy suddenly become a doting nanny who doesn’t take any lip is fun. I’m having an absolute ball. And this is a very funny, very skilled troupe. These are some of the funniest people I’ve ever met.”
Hysell said that includes director Lee Blair.
“His sense of comedy is brilliant.”
And while there are no shortage of light-hearted moments, Hysell said the play is rooted in the touching story of a boy and girl.
“Peter and Molly are both reaching the point of beginning adolescence,” he said. “But though they’re at the same point at the same time, Molly doesn’t stay a girl. She continues growing up, unlike Peter. They’re like shooting stars passing each other and they experience some true emotions and then they part. I think it’s very romantic. … This production is going to be the treat of the summer.”
In a press release, Blair adds, “There is a timelessness to it. We all still have that child within us that wants to be loved and have fun and have adventures. This tale continues that longing to never grow up.”
- West Virginia Public Theatre will present “Peter and the Starcatcher” at 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday and Wednesday-June 9 and 2 p.m. Sunday and June 10, in the Gladys G. Davis Theatre at the WVU Creative Arts Center. Tickets cost between $18-$23. They may be purchased by calling 304-293-SHOW (7469), at WVU box office locations or at ticket