The cast of "Peter and the Starcatcher" performs a number at the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.
The cast of "Peter and the Starcatcher" performs a number at the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.
Seven years ago, Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts presented the musical adaptation of “Peter Pan.”

Through Aug. 10 this summer, the Warsaw theater will tell an origin story of Peter Pan with “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

“It’s not like a typical play in my eyes,” said Anthony Cataldo, who plays Black Stache in “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Black Stache becomes Captain Hook.

“A lot of times when there’s such a killer season as ‘Matilda,’ ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ ‘Oklahoma!,’ ‘Mamma Mia!,’ ‘Hands on a Hard Body,’ I hear this play is normally the one that people are like, ‘Oh, it’s a play. We’ll go see the others, but it’s a play.’ This one I think is the one out of all of those you should see because it’s such a beautiful story. And it really appeals to every age. I can’t stress that enough,” Cataldo said.

Even though the actors have rehearsed the play a number of times already, he said they’re still tearing up by the end of it.

“It’s still so touching. And so funny. You’re in stitches laughing, and then five minutes later you’re tearing up because of the goodbyes. It’s such a well-thought-out piece,” Cataldo said.

Nick Case, who plays The Boy, who becomes Peter Pan, said, “What’s really interesting about this play is it’s an origin story in a way that you wouldn’t expect the origins to be what they are. So when people see Peter Pan, they’re familiar with the Forever Boy who exudes confidence and is really outgoing and a natural-born leader. But in the beginning, at least in ‘Peter and the Starcatcher,’ he’s an orphan boy who’s been orphaned too long to remember his own name and that’s why he goes by Boy.”

The Boy is a loner who has been isolated his whole life and is scared and insecure, Case said.

“And it’s really interesting, at least I think it will be for the audience, to watch how this broken boy becomes this icon of childhood that everyone is familiar with,” he continued.

Cataldo said that with everything in the play, there’s “just little things from Peter Pan that we just know. We know Captain Hook doesn’t have a hand. We know there’s a crocodile with a ticking noise. The hat that Wendy wears. All the little things are not blatantly ‘this will be in Peter Pan so we’re going to put it in here,’ but if you pay close attention, you see all those little things.”

Case said those little details aren’t done for fan service, “It’s if you get it, it’s really smart and really subtle, but it’s done really, really well.”

Cataldo said audiences will have to wait the entire show to see Black Stache and The Boy become Captain Hook and Peter Pan. “Peter’s a loner, and I keep my hand for the whole play,” he said. “We don’t become Captain Hook and Peter Pan until the last half hour of the play, which I think is very interesting.”

“Peter and the Starcatcher” is based on the 2004 novel “Peter and the Starcatchers” by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.

The novel, and thus the play, are more of a reboot to the story, Case said Barry has explained. “So it lives in the same universe with the same characters, but it’s not exactly the Disney cartoon we expect. But it doesn’t drop you off. It’s not like ‘Rogue One’ where it takes you right into the beginning of ‘Star Wars: A New Hope.’ There’s some time in between that it just sets up the story enough, and the epilogue to this play really explains what happens between the end of the play and where it leads into the Peter Pan that we all know,” Case stated.

Cataldo said everything “clicks” right at the very end.

“It’s really sort of the last loose end that gets tied up. We have the Lost Boys, we have Peter Pan, we have Captain Hook, we have the crocodile, we have Smee. Where’s Tinkerbell? And without giving too much away, stage magic really makes it happen. It’s really exciting,” Case said.

He said there’s also many things that happen in the play that aren’t in the book.

“In the book, Peter and Stache have a sword fight and that’s how (Stache) loses his hand, which is a little bit more accurate to the original Peter Pan. But I think he loses his hand – without giving too much away – in a more comical sense (in the play),” Case said.

Cataldo said what’s really interesting about the play is it’s not typical storytelling.

“It’s new and it’s fresh I think. You really have to pay attention to it, but it’s so interesting. We’re using plungers for swords, and different stuff that could be found objects. But it adds a different sense to the story, which I find interesting,” he said.

Case said, “The set becomes, at first it’s sort of an attic with a whole bunch of props, and then the ensemble has it become a dock and then the deck of one ship and then the deck of another ship. In Act II it’s on an island. (The stage) is sort of a blank canvas for the audience to imagine, which I think is really great. I think some of the best plays allow the audience to imagine for themselves what it looks like.”

Both actors said audiences need to bring their imaginations to the show.

“I feel like it’s geared toward kids and kids are going to enjoy it, but I think all the adults are really going to enjoy it because it will bring you back to that place of nostalgia and childlike wonder,” Cataldo said.

The play is just about 10 years old, and Cataldo said not a lot of theaters where he’s worked have done it yet. The only time he saw it was when it was on tour in 2014.

“So to be able to do it is really cool,” he said. “Personally, it’s a dream as an artist to be able to do this show because it’s written so well. The book is so good. To work with a book and a script that is this good is a dream, and it’s so artistically fulfilling. But then the audience is going to love it, too, so it’s the best of both worlds.”

This is the second time Case has been in a production of “Peter and the Starcatcher.”  In February 2018, he was in a directorial project of the show at Penn State and played Lord Aster, Molly’s father, as well as a Mollusk, a pirate and a sailor.

“It was in black box production, so it was a lot smaller of a stage, so with pretty much no budget at all, so it’s really great to have this well-fleshed production and to see it from a different perspective and to be a part of it from a different perspective is really great. I love this play,” Case said.

Tickets for “Peter and the Starcatcher” can be purchased through the box office; by calling 574-267-8041 or 866-823-2618; or online at www.wagonwheelcenter.org.