The Empress Theater is currently tackling the brilliant original story: Peter and the Starcatcher. The Tony-award winning musical spins a gorgeous tale of how a young orphan becomes the fantastic Peter Pan. Based on the beloved children’s book, Peter and the Starcatchers, by Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson, this musical intertwines hilarious characters, brilliant storytelling, and avid imagination to weave a truly magical story.
Located in Magna, the Empress Theatre has been a staple for all types of theater lovers since its opening in 1916, when it originally served as a Burlesque theater for local miners. Now a far cry from its early beginnings, the Empress Theatre presents brilliant shows for audience members across the state.
When you first pull up to the venue, the lovely façade suggests a bright, fun, energetic atmosphere. The show you find inside definitely does not fall short of these expectations. My boyfriend Aaron and I went to see the show on Friday night, full of excitement and anticipation. I have seen several shows at the Empress Theatre before, and as such, I was thrilled to bring him along to the intimate, enjoyable setting. I knew this show would be perfect for the stage at the Empress, and it certainly was.
From the very beginning, Arielle Strickland (Molly) is a true delight. She sold herself as a precocious, stubborn 13-year-old. Her stage presence is phenomenal, and even when she wasn’t the main focus of the scene, I found my eyes drawn to her. She always exuded the energy and wit necessary for the role, and I thoroughly enjoyed her performance. Her relationship with Kory Koontz (Lord Aster) was wonderful and sweet. I loved the two of them together, though Koontz was also great as a standalone performer.
Another clear standout is Anthony Lovato (Black Stache.) His comedic timing was simply brilliant—I was wiping tears from my eyes from laughing so hard at points. His gaudy stache only served to further his lovely characterization. Though Black Stache is the villain of the show, his performance made him the person that you love to hate. I particularly loved his chemistry with the phenomenal Glen Carpenter (Smee.) Aaron and I both agreed that the two of them together were magical—a truly wonderful casting choice by director Michelle Groves.
A surprising show-stealer is Christopher Gallacher (Mrs. Bumbrake/Teacher.) Any time he was on the stage, I couldn’t keep from laughing til my stomach ached. He had excellent comedic timing, and made a usually minor role unforgettable. He and Kaelob Berger (Alf) made a wonderful pair onstage, and their interactions wonderfully complimented the already scripted hilarity. Their performance together was truly spectacular.
The orphan boys together create a wonderful trio of fun, and absolutely embody the characteristics of 13-year-old boys. Jose Hernandez (Ted) is simply delightful to watch, and his never-ending hunger is a fun addition to the show. Dalton Adams (Prentiss) captures the stubbornness and willfulness of a 13-year-old boy so perfectly. The leader of the trio, Garrett Gunnell (Boy/Peter) blossoms beautifully throughout the show. His character arc is pure magic.
I have to say, though, that my very favorite person on stage is Madman Madriaga (Grempkin/Mack/Sanchez/Prawn.) You would think that, with so many characters, they would start to blend together. The opposite is actually true. Each character he played was so distinct from the others that it took me several scenes to realize it was the same actor playing them. Even the smallest role, Sanchez, was portrayed so fully. He dedicated himself to each role individually, and brought such fun and enjoyment to them. I particularly loved his facial expressions and physicality. He never held anything back and was a true joy to watch
Overall, the show is truly fun and enjoyable. I was surprised by how much I laughed. Peter and the Starcatcher is known for being very different, and the Empress does an amazing job of highlighting its individuality. Director Michelle Groves does an amazing job of staying true to the uniqueness of the show though bringing in her own twists and turns. Her own imagination is apparent and brought out my own inner child while I watched this delightful production. The creativity used throughout the show was just perfect, and I definitely commend her for leading the cast so strongly through what can be a very complicated show to produce.
Right on par with the creativity is costume designer Karen Chatterton. She captured the essence of the show with her fun, innovative costumes. The mermaid costumes were my absolute favorite and made the show even more magical. Her costumes paired wonderfully with the flawless light design, developed by Tanner Lindsay. The lighting truly complimented the show, and was perfectly cultivated. Huge kudos to Vic Groves for his simple, yet stunning, set design as well. The team came together with a shared vision, and the end result is lovely
If you are looking for something different from what you usually see, or a magical night full of laughs, this show is definitely the one for you.
One thing to note is that I would not recommend this show for younger children. There is a whipping scene in the first act that may be hard for any audience member to watch, but particularly smaller children. Beyond that, there is some slight language, though nothing egregious. The show is rather quick-paced, and as such, might be hard for a younger child to follow. But the expressive storytelling and sheer fun-ness of the show makes it wonderful for older kids, a date night, or a night out with your friends.
I would definitely recommend seeing this show. It is so funny and the characters are simply delightful. I left with a huge grin on my face, and Aaron and I couldn’t agree on who our favorite characters were (there were so many to love). If you’re not ready for the night to end, there is an improv show following the performance. It was a bit of a late night for us, as the show itself ended at around 9:45 PM, but could be very fun for you night owls.
The Empress Theatre presents Peter and the Starcatcher by Rick Elice
The Empress Theatre 9104 W 2700 S, Magna, Utah 84044
July 1, July 7-8 7:30 PM, July 1, 8 2:00 PM Matinees
Tickets: $10 online, $12 at the door
Empress Theater Facebook page.