La Jolla Playhouse's Page to Stage program offers playwrights a way to evolve their project through input from the audience. "Peter and the Starcatchers," an adaptation by "Jersey Boys" co-writer Rick Elice and based on the best-selling novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, is the next Page To Stage presentation.
"Peter and the Starcatchers" tells the story of a desperate orphan in Victorian England who journeys far beyond anything he ever imagined. The play runs Feb. 13 to March 8 at the La Jolla Playhouse.
Elice, who received his MFA from Yale Drama School and is a Teaching Fellow at Harvard, is a maverick in the theatre world. Along with Marshall Brickman, he received a Best Book for a Musical 2006 Tony Award nomination for "Jersey Boys." The play won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Other works by or co-written by Elice include "Leonardo's Ring" and "Dog and Pony," and he's a creative consultant for Walt Disney Studios.
Each Page to Stage production features minimal sets and will be revised throughout its entire process from audience feedback provided to the creative team and the actors after the performances. Elice has worked extensively at the Playhouse, but the Page To Stage program is a new experience for him.
"This process is so valuable for the production team to realize what an audience does and doesn't understand," Elice said. "The wonderful naivete of a collective group who knows nothing about what you're doing until the moment it cracks open and they get it, or if they don't, why, is a fantastic opportunity."
Elice came into the project after directors Roger Rees and Alex Timbers arranged with Disney what part of the novel would be used. After a lot of hard work, Elice's draft and story vision met everyone's approval.
"This play is for adults who are midway through their lives and would not change it," Elice said. "Peter is a boy on the top of the roller coaster who is never allowed to go to the other side. I see him as a way to look at our own lives with a renewed optimism because we did feel the rush and thrill of adolescence, adulthood, love, hate and big feelings you don't really experience until you are halfway to the top of the roller coaster. Sure, he gets to fly around and never have any wrinkles, but I bet Peter would say he's a little bored with infinity."
The play has all the elements of a highly entertaining show with prototypes of characters that people can identify with. There's the orphan boy Peter - the prototype of Peter Pan, Molly - a prototype of Wendy, and several villains one could associate with the Captain Hook character.
"Molly is the same age as Peter at the beginning of the story but by the end she's already getting older and who, had Peter grown up, might have been a romantic interest for him," Elice explained. "From one point of view this is a girl power story, because Molly grew up in a corseted morality in England educated by her broadminded father the way young men, not young women, were at the time. She actually teaches Peter how to be heroic."
Elice feels adults will better understand his play.
"This is not a typical version of a Peter Pan musical," he said. "It's aimed at people who have lived a little bit and might be tempted by the idea to never grow old, especially in a culture that is so youth obsessed."
La Jolla Playhouse's 'Peter and the Starcatchers'
- Feb. 13 - March 8
- Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre
- 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla
- (858) 550-1010