TIMONIUM, Md. (Nov. 30) — The water may be brown coming out of the drinking fountains. The state comptroller may be all upset over how Baltimore County has handled conditions at the school. But tonight under a thousand stars, about 80 fiercely dedicated students at Dulaney High School put on a show with less singing than pure star stuff. Or maybe it was Starbuck’s—kind of hard to tell sometimes amid hilariously exaggerated British accents and skit-like, anything-but-swashbuckling swordplay.
Peter and the Starcatcher is the backstory behind the characters in Peter Pan, much like Wicked is the backstory behind the characters in The Wizard of Oz. Starcatcher was first produced in California, and it first came to the Broadway stage on April 15, 2012; its run ended on January 20, 2013. Based on the novel of the same name by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, it was adapted for the stage by Rick Elice and features only a few musical numbers by Wayne Barker. Dulaney performed them either a cappella or with snare drum and simple piano accompaniment.
It has only recently been brought to high school stages across the country, with this school year seeing a few productions, including this one. The cast size is variable (you can put as many pirates on the boats as you have students), and the level of singing required can range from intermediate to operatic, depending on the character.
Also, Dulaney’s director, Tami Moon, came out on stage, mic in hand, before the play started to ask for volunteers. A number of people raised their hands, and then she told them what they were volunteering for: she needed to record animal sounds—a cat’s meow and a crocodile’s roar—so the sound crew could hit play at the right points in the play. No real cats were harmed during the production, although a stuffed animal got quite a rough treatment during the bickering. I could say the same for a certain pirate’s hand.
As for crocodiles, well, there was one. It took four people to make the crocodile: one to hold up each red eyeball and two to make chomping movements with the razor-sharp teeth on the croc’s maxilla and mandible.
Although the typical lighting, sound, and equipment issues that occur during so many high school productions across the country, especially on opening night, were perhaps more frequent than they should have been, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the stage presence every character demonstrated from the moment they walked onto the stage or entered from the rear of the house until they exited. The exit after the First Act probably was supposed to be in darkness and wasn’t, but the fact that everyone remained in character then and during scenes when they were mere props on stage is evidence of good direction and commitment to the performance on the part of student-actors.
In particular, Alex Mungo, in his first play at Dulaney since he’s new to the school this year but has been acting since the age of 5, brought a captivating energy to his role. As a pirate, he also made captives out of British lords and captains, but I was referring to the close connection he made with the audience by delivering his role with strong motivation and helping to draw spot on performances from other actors. His performance, as with many others, was a joy to watch.
In performance at Dulaney High School in Timonium, Maryland, November 30 through December 2. Musical productions in high schools often include the hard work of hundreds of students, teachers, and other community members. We write about them in support of new federal legislation in the Every Student Succeeds Act, which directs schools to include music and the arts as part of a “well-rounded education” for students in the US.