What is it like to be the boy who never grew up? This winter, UW Musical Theater majors Mikko Juan, Kirby McDermott, and Patrick McDermott get a taste of Neverland while working on Peter and the Starcatcher at ArtsWest. This musical is the prequel to the Peter Pan story. Starcatcher-in-training, Molly Aster, meets an orphan boy longing for a home and the two embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Peter and the Starcatcher marks the ArtsWest debut of all three musical theater majors who play ensemble roles under the direction of Eric Ankrim.

Juan explains that, “Although this is our debut with ArtsWest, I have worked with Eric before in Paint Your Wagon at the 5th and he is a brilliant mind. His approach is to have people really creating the show, stepping in and out of character, and just really breaking the fourth wall in so many ways.” Juan describes the structure of ArtsWest as a relaxed environment with a leadership team that is “very invested in artistic value. It’s easy to pipe up and ask questions or make mistakes in this environment. Eric is always encouraging us to play and experiment.”   

While the environment at ArtsWest is open and inviting, Juan notes that the speed of rehearsals is non-stop. The actors have adjusted to “working at a fast pace and just picking things up. Every night we’re constantly running around on stage and trying new things, but we’re having the time of our lives.”

From the very first week of rehearsals in early October, Juan says the cast has been creating relationships full of magic and chemistry. “There is never tension because we’re always laughing; everyone leaves the night with sore bellies. It’s really a special experience.”

Juan credits Musical Theater faculty Steven Sophia and Wilson Mendieta for preparing him to work with ArtsWest. He explains that Wilson regularly advises students to “not worry about perfection, but instead to explore and break free.” Juan says he’s struggled with that idea, but it has become important advice that has prepared him for this experience. In letting go of perfection and embracing exploration, Juan explains that, “This show reminds me of what it’s like to be in theater; not letting go of that aspect of playing around like the boy who never grew up and just continuing to use your imagination.”

Peter and the Starcatcher is a heartwarming musical based on the novel by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson, adapted for stage by Rick Elice and music by Wayne Barker.  The show runs from November 17-December 23 ArtsWest Playhouse and is approximately 2 hours with intermission. Tickets available at http://www.artswest.org/theatre-plays/peter-and-the-starcatcher/