PORT ANGELES — Aboard the good ship Neverland, we are headed into the wide, wavy sea called the imagination.
These waters are uncharted, yes. What is known: “You’re going to have a good time,” promised Rylan MacDonald, key cast and crew member of “Peter and the Starcatcher,” which opens Friday.
“Starcatcher” is both Port Angeles High School’s spring production and a voyage into Peter Pan’s backstory. In it we meet three lost and luckless children who find themselves departing Victorian England, heading for a island and confronting strange things and people.
Along the way are pirates named Black Stache and Smee; a precocious girl named Molly; her nanny Mrs. Bumbrake and her dad, Lord Aster. He’s a member of a secret group called the Starcatchers. We have a sword fight, a giant crocodile and a substance called Starstuff.
The play, by Rick Elice, was adapted for the stage based on the 2004 novel “Peter and the Starcatchers” by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.
Instead of a big budget for special effects, we have teenagers with energy — plenty of it. “Starcatcher” has a cast of 20, a crew of 12 and about 40 students who designed or made something for the show, said Anna Andersen, the professional director.
It all culminates in six performances this weekend and next: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday plus April 19 and 20, with matinees at 2 p.m. Sundays. The last show will be on Easter, April 21.
The venue is the 1,100-seat Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center, 304 E. Park Ave., where admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students and free for children 8 and younger.
Things start out simple. Senior Joelynne Jewell portrays the main character, who is at first known as Boy, while Charlotte Hertel and Samantha Rueda Mortenson, also seniors, are Molly and Lord Aster respectively. Juniors Cole Walsh and Simon Close are Smee and Black Stache, and MacDonald plays Mrs. Bumbrake while serving as the show’s costume designer.
“The actors are wonderful. They have impressed me beyond belief,” said Andersen, who also directs shows at Olympic Theatre Arts in Sequim, Clallam Mosaic in Port Angeles and the Shakespeare in the Woods plays at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center.
“Much of the magic happens with the narrators,” Andersen said of the roles played by seniors Isabelle and Jasmine Cottam, Charles Krause and AnLi Guttormsen and junior Rihanna Stockdale.
“These are actors who, in addition to narrating the story, play several small parts and facilitate the transformation of the set,” Andersen said.
“My favorite moment revolved around the narrators miming activity on the ship. Asked to act something out, every single one started pretending to mop. When they saw they were all doing the same thing, they each changed to a different activity. Again, most chose the same one.
“After laughing for days, we adjusted things slightly and kept that in the play.”
Then there are sophomores Maddie Montana and Talia Anderson, leaders of the island’s native tribe, “also fantastic,” Andersen said, adding, “I will never get tired of watching Talia’s war dance.”
The director’s mission is to give people a glimpse of theatrical Starstuff, that mix of childlike wonder and teenage grit. She and her students do this by showing their process, start to finish, and letting the audience watch as they don their characters and dress the set.
“Nothing fancy happens, but by the end of the play we are on a tropical island and we have experienced magic,” said Andersen.
The message here is “the power of imagination,” added MacDonald, 18.
“That’s reflected in our set. It’s really about what imagination can create.”
Sammy Weinert, a 17-year-old junior, is assistant director along with playing the role of Capt. Robert Falcon Scott. She hopes the people in her audience will want to set out with Boy and crew for a fantastical spot on the horizon.
“We want them to feel like they were able to step into their childhood again,” Sammy said.
“We’re bringing the audience into our play.”