When “Peter and the Starcatcher” opens the Utah Shakespeare Festival on Monday, it will represent a theatrical coup.
The dramatic prequel to the beloved story of Peter Pan currently is running on Broadway. Last year, “Starcatcher” won five Tony awards. It’s so popular, a national Broadway tour will launch this fall and a movie version is under contract for 2014.
Here’s a rare chance to see a professional production at one of the country’s finest theaters. The Utah company won a Tony of its own in 2000 for outstanding regional theater.
“Starcatcher” tells the backstory of Peter Pan. Derived ultimately from the famous J.M. Barrie story, the prequel is based on Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s novel, part of a series. Adapted for the stage by Rick Elice, the work tells the tale of how an orphan boy became Peter Pan.
“Starcatcher” features 12 actors who play multiple parts. The props even have a life of their own and morph into other telling objects.
By some magic and some persuasion, Director Brian Vaughn got the rights for USF to be the first theater company to produce the work regionally.
Now in its 52nd season, USF traditionally runs nine shows spanning two seasons. In the summer, three Shakespearean plays are performed in the Adams Memorial Shakespeare Theater, a replica of the Globe in London.
Across the street in the Randall Theater, two contemporary masterworks plus a musical will be mounted.
In the fall, “Starcatcher” will continue along with “Richard II” and the musical “The Wonderettes.”
The whole festival – plays, seminars, tours and discussions – takes place on the beautiful, shady campus of Southern Utah University, two blocks from the center of Cedar City.
There is plenty of housing at motels and B&Bs in town, many within walking distance of the shows.
In addition to “Peter and the Starcatcher,” this year’s offerings include Cole Porter’s jaunty musical “Anything Goes” and the American courtroom classic “Twelve Angry Men.” In light of several court cases dominating the news this summer, especially the Trayvon Martin trial, the Reginald Rose drama seems a pertinent choice. Cole Porter’s zesty musical adds a twist of lemon.
“The Tempest,” “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and “King John” are the 2013 Shakespearean offerings, the latter adding to the new goal of presenting the entire canon, 38 plays, during the next 12 years.
Co-artistic directors Vaughn and David Ivers began the canon project last year with the rarely produced “Titus Andronicus” as well as the much produced “Hamlet” and “Merry Wives of Windsor.” This year, the canon rolls on with “King John,” the first of Shakespeare’s 10 history plays, plus the story of a kingdom lost and a tale of love won.
The company will continue the project in the fall with Ivers in the role of Richard II. Fans of Ivers already are looking forward to his performance.
With its multimillion-dollar production budget and cast heavily sprinkled with Equity Actors, the Utah Shakespeare Festival continues to mount spectacular and thought-provoking productions. The Shakespearean offerings frequently are performed in period costume, but USF also is known for spectacular time traveling.
With your ticket, free activities can fill each day. Before evening performances, a lively Greenshow takes place in Shakespearean style. Short-play orientations focus on plot, characters and/or the playwright and production details.
Three different seminars take you backstage for props, costumes or up-close with actors.
Informal morning discussions take place in The Grove, where you can ask questions or discuss the previous day’s shows.
In short, there’s little down time, if you choose. And that’s not even mentioning two nearby national parks, Cedar Breaks and Zion.
Cedar City is a day’s drive. If you take the northern route, Moab north to Interstate 70 west, then south on U.S. Highway 15 to Cedar City, it’s not only scenic but a safe, four-lane highway most of the way.
email@example.com. Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic.