The performance “Peter and the Starcatcher,” directed by Harrison Lamb, will play at the C. L. Hoover Opera House April 22-24 and April 29-May 1.

“Peter and the Starcatcher,” written by Rick Elice and based on a novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, is the unofficial prequel to J.M. Barry’s Peter Pan story. An unnamed orphan, called Boy, adventures with two other orphan boys to experience despair and greed, fight pirates, find friendship and love, discover a magical place and ultimately attain a name: Peter Pan.

The show opens with two ships preparing for a voyage to a remote kingdom. One very fast ship is to carry precious cargo with a magical substance in it. The other old weather-beaten ship, the Neverland, is to carry a decoy trunk full of sand, but a pirate switches the trunks before the journey. An adventure ensues as the three orphan boys help a young girl named Molly recover the stolen trunk from pirates.

“I hope that the audience leaves with a sense of wonder and a slight desire to play a little more and not be so grown up all the time,” Lamb said.

Lamb, who recently accepted a job in Chapman as a Spanish and Theater teacher, said he decided to direct this play because he wanted to get back on stage after the pandemic and put on something that would remind people of the magic of theater.

“There are few shows as magical as ‘Peter and the Starcatcher,’” he said. “I wanted to bring this to the stage to remind people how magical and wonderful theater can be.”

Lamb said the rehearsals have been “phenomenal,” which he attributes to how well the show is cast. The show includes 30 cast members and four backstage crew, plus a light board and sound board operator.

“When you have a cast like this one, it makes the job of directing so much easier,” he said.

When casting the two lead characters, Peter and Molly, Lamb said it came down to two actors and actresses. He ended up casting Tate Milton as Peter because of his boyish sense of wonder. He cast Ivy Auletti as Molly because she had the voice for the character and seemed to have good chemistry with Milton.

“I think a little part of Tate is not quite grown up yet, and that’s the quality we need for a Peter Pan,” he said. “There was something in Ivy Auletti’s voice that sounded like how Molly sounds, and it was speaking to me.”

Auletti, who is the lead toddler teacher at Cradles to Crayons FCC and a psychology student at K-State University, said she has been acting since she was old enough to join theater programs. She did summer shows at the Manhattan Parks and Rec for several years and loved the activity. She started doing more shows as she grew older and was active in Manhattan High School’s theater productions. Some of her favorite past roles include Abigail Williams in “The Crucible” and Agnes Evans in “She Kills Monsters.”

Auletti said she decided to audition because it had been too long since she was involved in a production and she was excited to be on stage again. She said she loves the role of Molly because the character reminds her of herself at the age of 13.

“She is determined and dedicated to her mission but also starting to feel new and big emotions, which was very frustrating at that age. Not only is she saving the world but also discovering her own strength and abilities that we all can relate to,” she said. “She, like me, has the drive to be a selfless leader during a period when women and girls were overshadowed. Molly refuses to not be seen, and I admire that a lot.”

Auletti said her favorite thing about the production is working with the cast and getting to know people with similar interests and desires.

“Since this is my first show at JC, I was very nervous, but everyone made me feel so welcome, and I am so appreciative of the experience Harrison and the entire cast has provided,” she said. “I also love watching everyone get into character and experiment with new accents and movements. It is so much fun to watch this show come alive, and I hope lots of people get to enjoy the result.”

One thing Auletti said she hopes people get out of the show is empathy, since each character’s stories are expanded upon throughout the show. The stories, she said, show the amazing things children are capable of and their complexities, which mirrors what people see in everyone they meet in their daily lives, children and adults.

Tate Milton plays the part of the boy who becomes Peter Pan. He said the character is fun to play because most of his monologues paint a picture in the audience’s mind.

“It is fun to imagine what you are saying to the audience inside your head and this part allows me to do that. Plus, his character development throughout the show is fun to act out,” he said.

Milton said he hopes attendees will enjoy the humor in the show and see the vivid picture the characters in the story portray to the audience.

“This show teaches many lessons,” he said. “It tells that classic Peter Pan moral that you can grow up in different ways, but it also teaches about hope and trust. This show is a great show for a large variety of people both young and old.”

Lamb is playing Molly’s father since some of those who auditioned did not accept their roles, and there was no one else to play the part. He said the character is not that much different than he is.

“The show is written in a way it is like story theater. It suspends belief a lot. Almost like a bedtime story,” he said. “The more kids that are in the audience, the more magical it will be.”

He said he would also like to see couples and whole families in the audience to enjoy the magic.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. For tickets, call 785-238-3906 or visit jclittletheater.org.

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