Norristown’s Theatre Horizon stages ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’

The cast is shown during rehearsals of “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
The cast is shown during rehearsals of “Peter and the Starcatcher.” PHOTOS BY Alex Medvick

if you go

What: ‘Peter and the Starcatcher”

When: April 26-May 20

Where: Theatre Horizon, 401 DeKalb St., Norristown

For information, check: www.theatrehorizon.org

Theatre Horizon is bringing a humorous new version of the Tony award-winning swashbuckling Broadway musical, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” to the area and it is a musical production designed to appeal to people of all ages.

“It is a show for everyone,” said Matthew Decker, co-founder and director of Theatre Horizon in Norristown. “The story is very funny and inventive. The script has a lot of adult humor in it and has adult sensibility.”

And some Norristown residents will be able to get free tickets to the show through the theater’s Norristown Neighbors Program.

Decker explained the show is the original story of how a boy becomes the legendary Peter Pan, how they discover Neverland and how the other characters, such as Wendy, Tinker Bell and Captain Hook, develop.

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He said although the musical is based on the children’s book of the same title written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, they recommend it for ages 10 and up because there are some pirates fighting and Peter gets involved in situations, so it may be too scary for younger children.

Decker said there are 12 actors and musicians who play over 100 characters in the show. In addition to portraying their core characters, they perform as pirates, sailors and mermaids in other scenes. “There is a lot happening and it is quite fun to watch the actors change characters quickly,” he said.

At the center of the story is a brave young 13-year-old woman named Molly who is smart, heroic and cunning and leads Peter and the future lost boys on a fantastic adventure.

Decker explained that Molly, her father Lord Aster, and her governess are sailing from England and protecting a trunk filled with “star stuff,” which is magical pixie dust, when she meets Peter, an orphan boy who has never had the love of parents or friends in his life. And although the two clash, they become unlikely allies to protect the “star stuff” from the pirates.

Playing the lead role of Molly is Leigha Kato, an actress who is originally from California but has been performing in various Philadelphia theaters since receiving her degree in musical theater from the University of the Arts in the city. She said she believes the character of Molly is a 100 percent good role for young women. “She is very smart, curious, loves helping people, and is courageous and lovable,” Kato said. “She is what a leader should be and Peter learns a lot from her.”

Kato, who was a Barrymore-nominated performer in the “Into the Woods” production at the Theatre Horizon a few years ago, said she really likes the shows the Norristown theater chooses. “They are celebrating women and not many theaters do that,” she noted.

“I think people will love the show,” she added. “It is a fun show and a good show for both kids and adults.”

Also joining the cast is actress Samantha Rosentrater, who lives in New York City and has performed in regional theater all over the country. She says she is incredibly excited to join the Norristown company again after performing in the play “Grand Concourse” last year. “The artistic staff is incredible, the administrative staff is incredible, and they are all passionate about what they do,” said the actress, who received a master’s degree in classical acting from Wayne State University in Detroit.

Rosentrater says she is looking forward to working with Decker since she will be acting the fun and challenging role of a character who is normally played by a man — a grumpy old sailor who hates children but has a soft spot for them and falls in love with Molly’s governess. She says Decker had an amazing idea to blend the genders since it is unusual for females to play the male roles. “It is a unique take on the story unlike any other production of this musical you have seen,” she said.

The actress said she also likes the fact that the Norristown theater is very community oriented.

One of the community outreach programs is the theater’s Norristown Neighbors Program, which offers free tickets to residents of Norristown at each of the performances. Residents can get the free tickets to the shows by calling the box office at 610-283-2230 ext.1. The free tickets are limited and must be reserved in advance.

The first five performances, April 26 to 29 and May 1, are preview performances and tickets are $35 each. Tickets for the shows on May 2 through 20 are $45 each, with $5 discounts offered to seniors over age 62, students, educators and military personnel. Show times and tickets are available online at theatrehorizon.org or tickets can be purchased at the box office one hour prior to the performances.

Decker pointed out that all of the actors are professionals and are a very accomplished group who perform in all of the major theaters in Philadelphia and the surrounding area. Among the others in the show, appearing as Molly’s father Lord Aster, is Johnnie Hobbs Jr, one of Philadelphia’s well-known actors, a professor at the University of the Arts for 30 years, and a recent awardee of the Barrymore Lifetime Achievement Award. “It is really wonderful to see these great actors come in Norristown,” Decker added.

Decker said the theater, located at 401 DeKalb St., has been bringing critically acclaimed productions to this area since 2012. He said he and Erin Reilly, co-founders of the theater, both grew up in the King of Prussia area and graduated from Upper Merion High School before Decker went on to study at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and Reilly went on to study at the University of Pennsylvania. After returning home and working in area theaters, the two decided to open the theater in Norristown.

“It made sense to come to an area that did not have a lot of theater and arts, and the audience base is so great for the arts in Norristown that we are very glad we did,” Decker said.

Decker is a three time Barrymore Award winner for directing, and his production of the musical, Into the Woods was awarded the 2015 Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical Barrymore. He also served as artistic director at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia for eight years.